The Masonic, San Francisco

An icon of mid-century modernist architecture, the California Masonic Memorial Temple at 1111 California Street atop Nob Hill was designed by Albert Roller and dedicated on Sept. 29, 1958. The temple houses the Masonic Auditorium, the Grand Lodge of California, the Henry W. Coil Library and Museum.  The sculpture on the outside of the building, created by Emile Norman, is a war memorial, with the four 12-foot high figures representing the branches of the armed forces, as well as 14 marble figures engaged in a tug-of-war, representing the struggle between good and evil.

In the lobby hangs American artist Emile Norman’s largest art piece: a 38-foot by 48-foot, decorative mural window hung in San Francisco’s Masonic Temple.  His now famous “endomosaic” mural consists of 45 acrylic panels that incorporates naturally-colored materials like seashells and stones mixed in with colored glass, and acrylic as well as fabric, grass, earth and glass powder.  At the bottom is a frieze that includes soil from every California county and Hawaii.  The materials are sandwiched between thin panes of clear plastic or glass which are then soldered together and hung in a widow frame.  The arrangement of characters depicts the history of Masonry in California. The central figures—that of the sea and wayfaring pioneers who came to California—are also reminiscent of the seal of the City and County of San Francisco. The pioneer story, underscored by the moral lessons symbolized by Masonic tools and emblems, surround these figures, drawing us in to their colorful history.

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