Freemasonry was one of the earliest associations of South Australia and several of its members played crucial roles in the state’s history.
The South Australian Grand Lodge, formed before the colony was settled, was the first to be established in Australia. The South Australian Lodge of Friendship was consecrated in London on October 22, 1834. George Strickland Kingston, the colonisation commission’s deputy surveyor, was first senior warden. At the proclamation ceremony at Glenelg, freemasons present were Kingston, Robert Gouger, John Morphett, and possibly Thomas Gilbert and Beare.
Fundraising for a masonic temple to be built on North Terrace took place in 1913-14 but it was 10 years before the plans could be executed.
In 1923, architects J. Quinton Bruce and W.H. Harral submitted a design that was unanimously accepted. However, when tenders were called, the cost was far greater than expected, so the specified cut stone and granite work was replaced by reinforced concrete. “This was a disappointment to many craftsmen to whom the aesthetic appeals, but Freemasons do not believe in overrunning the constable even for the sake of appearances.”
The imposing scale of the design was retained, however, with the front section to comprise five storeys, a basement and a rear part, with a great hall for grand lodge functions. “On the ground floor will be the administrative offices and billiard rooms and the Hall of Fame, this last rising two storeys with a balcony all round at the height of the first-floor level.”
Harral personally supervised the work, the main contract for which was let to Anderson and Company. The building was opened in May 1927. There have been few alterations since.
The building’s massive scale and form dominate its surroundings, although it is complemented by the Brookman building on the northern side of North Terrace.