Richmond Randolph Lodge No. 19, located in Richmond, Virginia, stands as not only one of the oldest structures in the city but the longest continuously used Masonic building in the Western Hemisphere (Masons’ Hall, 2015). Located in Richmond’s historic Shockoe Bottom, bordering the Church Hill neighborhood, Masons’ Hall has remained a fixture in the city’s aesthetic identity from its inception. Almost 230 years after its erection, Mason’s Hall continues to represent Richmond and the country during its formative years as a new republic. The importance of Masons’ Hall as a dynamic element of the community’s social, historical, and cultural fabric is a point worthy of attention.
Building the Hall was an expensive and burdensome task due to a lack of stabilization in funding sources. Initially the approach to securing a revenue stream consisted of a lottery scheme, overseen by John Marshall, which sought to raise £1500 in order to construct a three-story masonry building. Fires that ravaged Shockoe Bottom during its earliest years, as the heart of the capital, diverted attention and funds that would have otherwise have directed towards the Hall. By 1785, only a single masonry story (now high English basement/first floor) was erected with the funds raised through the lottery. As wealth slowly seeped into Shockoe Bottom, following the procurement of the state capitol, frame structures were slowly phased out in an effort to stunt the wide spread impacts of structural fires through the introduction of new masonry buildings. Richmond masons with the emphasis to steer away from frame construction aimed to embody this trend, however, fell short due to monetary constraints; with the remaining two-stories built in frame.
The Hall’s namesake, Edmund Randolph, was placed into the office of Governor of Virginia, the first since obtaining statehood, in the year prior to the Hall’s construction. During this time Randolph was nominated to Virginia’s Grand Master. One of the first non-Masonic uses of the Hall took place in its first year of inception, when the space was utilized as a training forum for the Richmond-based delegates reporting to the Constitutional Convention. Since initially Richmond lacked a formalized location for court proceedings, the Hall undertook the title of the Husting’s Court and the responsibility of housing such judicial procedures. The relationship with the law endured as John Marshall, began his formal introduction and training at the Masons’ Hall.