Harry Percy Knowles was the renowned Masonic architect who was recognized for his works of various Masonic buildings, including our current Grand Lodge of New York building and the Masonic Home campus buildings at Utica. The generous donations from his grandson, John Knowles Copelin, help us learn his Masonic legacy with his architectural renderings.
Masonic Temple at Colon, Panama
Sojourners’ Lodge No. 874 was chartered in 1898, in the city of Colon, Panama, under the Grand Lodge of Scotland. Consisting of mostly American Masons, the Sojourners’ Lodge later chose Knowles as the architect of their first building in 1910. The cornerstone was laid on May 30, 1911, in the northeast corner of the Canal Zone. The building was completed in June of 1914. It is a three-story building with stores on the first floor, offices on the second floor, and lodge rooms on the third and mezzanine floors.
Grand Lodge of New York Building
The Grand Lodge of New York Building is one of the most recognizable architectural works of Knowles. The building was erected in 1911 on 24th Street and 6th Avenue to replace the previous Grand Lodge building and later extended to 23rd Street to have office space for tenants. This building is also known for its sophisticatedly decorated lodge rooms.
Toronto Masonic Temple
Being from Ontario himself, Knowles submitted his design for the planned Toronto Masonic Temple in 1914 and it was chosen by the committee. The project was later canceled due to funding issues.
Masonic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital
The Masonic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hospital in Utica, New York, was built to care for soldiers and Masonic members as a hospital on the Masonic Care Community campus. The Grand Master MW William S. Farmer laid the cornerstone in 1919 and the hospital building was dedicated in 1922. The in-depth article on the hospital building can be found here.
Daniel D. Tompkins Memorial Chapel
The Daniel D. Tompkins Memorial Fund was started in 1904 by Grand Master MW Frank H. Robinson to raise money to build a chapel in honor of Daniel D. Tompkins on the campus of the Masonic Care Community. The chapel was dedicated in 1911, and it is known for its impressive set of Tiffany’s stained glass windows.
Schenectady Masonic Temple
Very little is known about Knowles’ Schenectady Masonic Temple rendering. The design of the Schenectady Masonic Temple, which had its cornerstone laid in 1919 and was erected on the corner between Erie Boulevard and State Street in Schenectady, suggests that his design was not chosen.
Prince Hall Masonic Temple
According to The American Contractor and Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide in May of 1921, Knowles was reported to be working on the Prince Hall Masonic Temple on the corner of 144th street and 7th Avenue in New York City. The Prince Hall Grand Lodge of New York, however, had not laid the cornerstone of the building on this corner until 1926, three years after Knowles’ death. The enlisted architect was changed to Vertner W. Tandy. Presumably, Knowles’ design of the temple was never used.
The beautifully decorated Moorish revival building was once the home to the Shriners known as Mecca Temple. In 1921, the Shriners organized the Mecca Temple Holding Company and then purchased the plots between 55th and 56th Street. They chose Harry Percy Knowles, who was a member of Mecca Temple, to design the building. The cornerstone was laid on October 13th, 1923 by MW Arthur S. Tompkins, the Grand Master of New York. Unfortunately, Knowles died in 1923 before the completion of the building. This Mecca Temple rendering is presumably the early design where the second building on the left was included in the draft.
After the Great Depression, the building became the City’s property in 1940 and it was changed into a performing arts center, an idea of Mayor Fiorello La Guardia. The building is now known as the New York City Center.
Knowles was a member of Pyramid Lodge No. 490, Union Chapter R.A.M., and York Commandery No. 55 Knights Templar, and served a term as the Past Grand Sword Bearer of the Grand Lodge of New York. In addition, he once worked for Napoleon Le Brun, the well-known architect who designed the previous New York Masonic Temple in 1870.
Onondaga and Oswego Masonic District. “Harry P. Knowles.” 2015.
Moore, William D. Masonic Temples: Freemasonry, Ritual Architecture, and Masculine Archetypes. The University of Tennessee Press, 2014.
Skazin, Paul R. A. E. A Tale of Two Temples. https://web.archive.org/web/20110927085432/http://webhome.idirect.com/~skazin/new_page_2.htm.
“The American Contractor.” 28 May 1921.
“Real Estate Record and Builders’ Guide.” 28 May 1921.
Prince Hall Masonic Temple – New York City. New York City Chapter of The American Guild of Organists, http://www.nycago.org/Organs/NYC/html/PrinceHallTemple.html.
“The Masonic Standard.” 6 Jan. 1923.
Beam, Walter Irvin, and John Layard Caldwell. Masons and Masonry on the Panama Canal, 1910 – 1914. Masonic Club of Empire, 1914.