Masonic Lodge

The practice of freemasonry in the subcontinent was a closely guarded secret, and the lodge was inaccessible to the general public. In view of the secrecy shrouding its practice, local inhabitants referred to Masonic Lodges as 'Jadu ghar' (a Sorcery or witchcraft House), a term employed by the famous anthropologist Richard Burton in discussing the lodge in Karachi. Lahore became the headquarters of freemasonry in the Punjab and a District Grand Lodge, "a commodious and handsomely furnished hall" was built to conduct the activities. Members of the society were chiefly Europeans, although the Gazetteer of 1884 informs us that some Parsis, Muslims, and Hindus were also admitted.

The first lodge, built in 1860, was a comparatively modest structure, and employed the classical form utilized in Lawrence and Montgomery Halls, with pediment windows and a small projecting portico carried on simple fluted columns. However, the original building was sold during the early 1910s when it was decided to acquire a site for a new building.

The impressive Masonic Lodge is situated on the east comer at the junction of Sharah-e-Quaid-e-Azam (the Upper Mall) and Sharah-e-Fatima Jinnah (Ferozpur Road), while its almost exact replica, the Shah Din Building, forms the opposite corner on the west of the junction. Together with the Marble Pavilion  and the Punjab Assembly Building, these buildings constitute the most important urban elements of Lahore's Charing Cross. The two identical buildings were envisioned to form the backdrop for the new square designed by Consulting Architect Basil M. Sullivan, and brought much order into a disorderly collection of streets and untidy urban environment.

The foundations of the new Masonic Lodge were laid in 1914 on a site measuring 13 kanals at the south-east corner of the newly launched Charing Cross scheme. This is where three important roads met and the Consulting Architect Basil M. Sullivan was keen to treat the whole neighborhood in the form of a comprehensive scheme, in order to combine "the existing straggling gardens and broken frontage, with the main roads focusing more directly upon the Victoria Memorial," which he believed was essential to provide a dignified setting that such a monument required, but lacked at the time.

The building, with its graceful and comparatively uncluttered character, has a significant presence on the main road. Consisting of a two-storey structure, evocative of classical detailing, the building is much simplified, in deference to the Modern Movement that held sway in Europe and USA at the time. Although Doric columns are employed to flank the ground floor openings with pilasters rising to the full height of two storey, the moldings and detailing of slightly projecting eaves etc. are in conformity with the utilitarian character demanded by the Modern Movement. A large porch or deorhi, in the manner of many buildings of the period, rises to the full two storey, and projects out from the main facade, providing accent and emphasis to the dignified building.

The building situated at 90, The Mall, lay desolate for many years; however, it was due to the impetus provided by the Heritage Foundation Pakistan through the conservation of the nearby General Post Office during the 1980s, as well as pressure from conservation groups in Lahore, that the restoration of this important landmark was taken up. It was hoped that after its restoration, a museum and archives dedicated to the Pakistan Movement would be established, but this objective is still to be achieved. There is little doubt that through adaptive re-use, fine architectural edifices such as this one should allow the general public to visit and enjoy the treasures of the past, instead of relegating them to the exclusive use of government officials or political leaders.

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