Avdi Veda Tace (Hear, see, be silent)
Latin Motto of the United Grand Lodge of England
Freemasonry is renowned for the discretion, keeping in secret the opulence of their secular legacy both material and immaterial, abstract and tangible. The story behind Andaz Hotel's "ghost room", so peculiar it sounds like a novel's intrigue, is probably the best parable of masonic secret splendor and their taste for excellence.
In the busy heart of London, adjacent to the Liverpool Street Train station, the big red bricks construction is one of original railway hotels edified in London during the victorian era. Commissioned by the transport companies to fit the growing number of short term visitors that train revolution had bring into town, the Railways Hotels were the first large accommodations in the capital. Usually impressive in size, these building were designed as a symbolic demonstration of rail transport's wealth , the largest business in Great Britain at the time. Architects Charles and and Edward Barry, sons of another Charles Barry, himself prestigious architect of the House of Parliament, were chosen to create the Great Eastern Hotel. The luxurious opened in 1884 and enjoyed the swanky privilege of owning its own track inside the train station for daily provisions delivery, including sea water for the Hotel salt water baths.
But tourism industry boomed, hotels from all size and all standing mushroomed over the city while airplanes and cars were gradually preferred to train transportation. Sadly, the Great Easter hotel meet desuetude and morphed into a tired, dusty old mansion. However, almost a century after its grand opening, the Great Eastern Hotel found a new destiny through designer Terence Conrad, who projected to polish up the image of the tarnished landmark by getting rid of the outdated interiors and started a ambitious loungy chic makeover. But the tale took a Dario Argento twist when, during the restoration, engineers are said to have faced a couple of bizarre facts: blue print executed were apparently incoherent while a portion of the building was mysteriously way heavier than the rest, causing great stress on the foundation.
Long story short, something was wrong with this place. Wrong or forgotten, until the day builders eventually unveiled its secret, discovering the most unexpected, concealed behind a phony wall : a sober looking wood paneled antechamber and,passing a studded double door, a vast and incredibly refined parlor. Adorn with marble, this breath-taking room of splendors was in fact a ancient masonic temple, frozen in time, probably caring in its air the last breath of the initiate who closed its door decades ago.
Built in 1912 for the equivalent of 4 millions current pounds, this forgotten chamber is a pure jewel of luxe, and probably one of the most grandiose masonic temple of London. Neoclassic in style, the windowless room known as the Grecian Temple includes an organ, mahogany hand carved chairs , bronze candelabras on claw feet, and nothing less than 12 different types of marbles used for the floor, the columns and the walls. The celling , a blue and gold dome, bares a five-pointed “Blazed Star” and zodiac signs, representing the illimitable firmament. The room is conform to the classic masonic temple setting with checkerboard floor and Salomon's Pillars, esoteric insignias are present but discreet, the allegoric aspect having been preferred for the general aspect.
A masonic lodge in a hotel sounds a bit inappropriate nowadays, but back in the 19th century Great Britain, it was unusual but was not an isolated architectural whim. At the time, being part of a fraternal organization was very popular among gentlemen, and Great Railways Hotels developed of large variety of facilities to be more competitive with each other. Having a masonic lodge was a plus if you wanted to attract a certain class of patronage. In the Great Eastern Hotel case, as freemasons helped to construction of the mansion, they were secretely given a room that enable them to gather for rites. As surprising as it seems , another Egyptian lodge was found on the basement of the Hotel. More modest looking, it was turned into a gym during Conrad's colossal restoration.
Today part of the Hyatt Hotel Group, the Great Eastern Hotel is known as the Andaz. The Grecian Masonic Temple is still here and open upon reservation. A simple phone call to the hotel will get you a rendez vous with in Hiram's domains. The lovely Andaz staff, always proud to show the Lodge, will serve you as a guide, answer all your questions and patiently old your camera if you want a picture in the Grand Master mahogany Throne.