Making Progress: Life Safety Improvements

Center handrails added to the main staircase connecting Pillars of Charity to Banquet Hall

By Jeri E. Walker, Office of Development

The work of updating and renovating the House of the Temple continues to move forward. Life safety improvements are a priority and are proceeding accordingly. Modernizing a 95-year-old building is a challenging enterprise. The Supreme Council has employed a team of experts in the field to advise and initiate the necessary improvements that will ensure that our national headquarters is compliant with all the life safety systems required for a visitor- and staff-friendly historical landmark.

Recently, center handrails were added to the main staircase that connects the Pillars of Charity to the Banquet Hall. They were manufactured to match the existing railings that are attached to the walls of the stairway. The rails are made from solid brass tubing and will have custom-cast finials attached to the top of each centerpiece, matching the side handrails. These new handrails stay true to John Russell Pope’s original design.

New steel handrails have been added to the black staircase leading from the Temple Architects Hall of Honor to the basement level and center handrails were added to the stairs leading from the landing to the basement. The existing handrails along the walls will eventually be removed.

Fire safety is vitally important in any building, and efforts are underway to improve the safety of visitors and staff of the House of the Temple. New doors have been added to the basement level to separate the main stairway from the basement to minimize smoke migration in case of a fire. Similar doors were also added to the mezzanine level from the northwest stairway.

Recently, general safety features were added to enhance rapid departure from the building. Exit signs, emergency lighting, and floor plan signs have been added to hallways and stairwells to improve emergency evacuation of the building. New door hardware was installed on the exit doors leading from the basement level to the outside to improve the ease of egress in case of an emergency.

Preparations have been made to install a new fire alarm audio-visual device to alert visitors and staff to an emergency. Upcoming improvements include instillation of new HVAC systems, electrical and plumbing distribution systems, as well as fire protection systems that will include sprinklers.

The life safety improvements are essential projects that must be addressed as soon as possible. It is our obligation to insure the safety of visitors and staff, and this includes constantly upgrading all life safety systems.

As we go forward with the formidable task of renovating this beautiful building, we are inspired by the generosity of our members, not only in a monetary sense but also in their words of honor for those who came before with the inspiration and fortitude to build this majestic landmark. We deeply appreciate everyone who has taken an interest in this endeavor. Every donation from one dollar and up is greatly appreciated and will help us with the life safety improvements, as well as many other essential projects. We will strive to recognize each and everyone for their gift.

Contributions to the Rebuilding the Temple Campaign, which funds these improvements, can be made directly to the House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, Inc., for the Rebuilding the Temple Campaign at 1733 Sixteenth Street, NW, Washington, DC 20009 or online at

For more information on the Rebuilding the Temple Campaign and ways to give, contact the Development Office staff:

The Rebuilding the Temple Campaign is an effort that is part of the House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, Inc., which is a non-profit Virginia corporation recognized as a tax-exempt public charity under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986, as amended. Its tax identification number is 52-1664576. Contributions to the House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, Inc. for the Rebuilding the Temple Campaign are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by the law.