Freemasonry is renowned for its discretion, keeping in secret their opulence, but the Andaz Hotel’s Masonic Temple became too secret for its own good and was forgotten for years until it was surprisingly found during later construction.
Built adjacent to London’s Liverpool Street train station in 1884, the Great Eastern Hotel was one of the city’s original railway hotels. Usually impressive in size, these buildings were designed as a symbolic demonstration of rail transport’s wealth. The luxurious hotel enjoyed the swanky privilege of owning its own track inside the train station for daily provisions delivery, including sea water for the hotel’s salt water baths.
However, when the tourism industry boomed, hotels of all sizes sprang up across the city and cars gradually replaced trains as the primary mode of transport. Sadly, the Great Eastern soon fell behind the times and languished as a dusty old mansion. However, almost a century after its opening, the Great Eastern Hotel found a new destiny through designer Terence Conrad, who decided to polish the landmark by getting rid of the outdated interiors and giving the building an ambitiously chic makeover. However, during the restoration, engineers are said to have noticed a few discrepancies in the blueprints. Then, like something out of an adventure movie, they removed one of the walls to find a wood-paneled antechamber and, on the other side of a studded double door, a vast and incredibly refined masonic temple.
Built in 1912, this forgotten chamber is a pure jewel of luxury, and probably one of the most grandiose Masonic temples in London. Neoclassic in style, the windowless room is known as the “Grecian Temple.” The opulent room includes an organ, hand-carved mahogany chairs, bronze candelabras on claw feet, and no less than 12 different types of marble used in the floor, columns, and walls. The celling, a blue and gold dome, bears a five-pointed “blazed star” and zodiac signs. The room conforms to the classic Masonic temple setting with a checkerboard floor and discreet esoteric insignias.
A Masonic lodge in a hotel sounds a bit inappropriate nowadays, but in the 19th century Great Britain it was unusual but not unheard of. At the time, being part of a fraternal organization was very popular among gentlemen, and railway hotels developed a large variety of facilities to become more competitive. Having a Masonic lodge was a plus if you wanted to attract a certain class of patronage. In the case of the Great Eastern Hotel, freemasons helped to construct the hotel, and they were secretly given a room that enabled them to gather for rites.
Today the hotel is part of the Hyatt Hotel Group, and the Great Eastern Hotel is known as the Andaz. The Grecian Masonic Temple is still there and open upon reservation.