Author Archives: Adam Smartt

Washington and Lafayette: The Impact of a Chosen Family

Installation Remarks by Worshipful Nelo Allen Hamilton, Jr., 162nd Worshipful Master of Alexandria–Washington Lodge No. 22, originally delivered on December 27, 2023 at the George Washington Masonic National Memorial:

First impressions are the foundation of our perceptions. Fair or not, the initial experience with an organization leaves a lasting impression and impacts engagement. As I enter the East, I have
reflected on my first impression of AW22. It has truly shaped who I am as a Mason.

When I first moved to Alexandria from Mississippi in 2017, I was in search of the sense of community I had known growing up. I reached out to AW and met with Right Worshipful Michael Bible at Buzz Bakery on Slaters Lane in January 2018. His prompt response and generous indulgence in my numerous questions made me feel welcome and more interested. He encouraged me – as we always do for prospects – to attend the dinners before the Stated Communications.

Days after my meeting with RW Bible, my father passed away suddenly. The shock to my family and the blur of activity surrounding an unexpected death left us all dazed. I remembered telling
RW Bible that I would attend the January Lodge dinner and sent an email with my regrets. Then Master, Right Worshipful Mark Underwood, whom I had not met at the time, immediately called, followed by RW Bible. Their sincere concern and affection toward someone they really didn’t know during the darkest of times left an indelible impression.

I came to two conclusions from these interactions. First, I wanted to be a part of an organization that helps men find connections that are meaningful. Second, once in, my Brethren were going to be my first call in all future tests in life.

We reside in an area marked by constant transience, amidst a world that, at times, seems to grow more isolated. The concept of a chosen family has gained prominence in today’s society, and I would argue that it is now more needed than ever.

We are fortunate that our lodge boasts a rich history from which we can draw inspiration and adapt it to the current time, and this next year is no exception. In 2024, we will begin to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Marquise de Lafayette’s return to the United States for his grand tour — an esteemed Brother and a cherished member of this Lodge, deeply intertwined with the legacy of our Illustrious Brother and Past Master, George Washington.

It is common knowledge that Lafayette regarded Washington as a father figure and Washington saw him as a son. When we consider their backgrounds, we find a Virginia farmer with little formal education and an aristocrat from one of the world’s most powerful nations. These two men, worlds apart in origin, forged not only a profound personal connection but a professional
partnership that reshaped history. We know that were it not for Lafayette’s pivotal role as a liaison between France and General Washington, the United States as we know it might not exist today; the war might not have been won.

What I find most beautiful in Freemasonry is its capacity to bring together men from diverse backgrounds — varied in socioeconomic status, race, orientation, religion, profession, and geographical origin — allowing them to sit in the Lodge and meet on the level. A group of men who leaves the chaos of the world at the door to work towards the betterment of themselves and society.

In our everyday lives, our paths might never cross with those of our Masonic Brethren, yet this institution grants us the privilege of forming those deep and meaningful bonds. Like Washington and Lafayette, I firmly believe that surrounding ourselves with individuals from diverse backgrounds enriches our lives, and as exemplified by these two extraordinary men, it can indeed change the world.

How often have we engaged in conversations with someone whose background differed from our own, only to have our perspectives expanded, our minds broadened, and our paradigms shifted? In a world that appears increasingly polarized and divided, Freemasonry stands as an opportunity to bring men together. In an election year where passions rise and external factors try to divide us, the need for this space is only grows.

My theme or tagline this year will Washington and Lafayette: The Impact of a Chosen Family.

I am truly humbled to stand here tonight. AW22 is a vibrant, energetic and talented lodge. A Lodge that is filled with men who are passionate about our Craft. We are blessed to have officers in line who have a vision of what Masonry means and the role it can play in the world. while establishing a strong foundation for this Lodge moving forward.

Let us embrace the teachings of our great fraternity, drawing inspiration from the past, and carry the torch of unity and understanding into the future. Together, living into the Constitutions and our obligations, we can transcend boundaries, enriching our lives and, in the spirit of Washington and Lafayette, contribute to a world that stands united in its diversity.

Brethren, I challenge you to be involved this year! If you are waiting for an invitation to get involved… this is it. Your unique perspectives matter, your input is critical to the operations and health of this lodge. Engage and, together, we will build a stronger AW22. A Lodge that not only relies on its rich past, but has firm hold on its vision for the future.

From the Archives: Witness Account of the 1871 Lodge Fire

From the Archives is a recurring series that highlights Alexandria-Washington Lodge’s archives and museum. Visitors are welcome to visit the museum during the memorial’s operating hours.

Written by Chris Ruli, Archives Committee

In the early morning of May 19, 1871, the townspeople of Alexandria awoke to the sounds of alarms. A fire erupted inside the city hall, which also served as a lodge space and museum operated by Alexandria-Washington Lodge No. 22 (AW22). The lodge’s members quickly arrived at the scene to help suppress the conflagration, which had spread to most of the building and threatened to destroy the entire lodge hall and museum – home to one of the earliest museums in the United States. They worked quickly to secure hundreds of priceless relics and documents on Freemasonry, politics, science, art, and popular culture. Although they were able to save a significant number of items, including the lodge’s proceedings and much of the Washingtoniana – the collection of memorabilia associated with George Washington, much of the museum’s natural science and art collection was lost. 

Six days later, on May 25, members assembled in a temporary lodge space to discuss their future. In lieu of the standard minutes usually recorded, the lodge’s secretary drafted a powerful recollection of the fire, written in compelling prose.The following is a full reproduction of his remarks, which provides readers with an emotional account of the May 19 fire and the lodge’s attempt to rescue their history from total destruction.

In sorrow the Craft assembled this Thursday evening (May 25th) in the hall of Andrew Jackson Lodge No. 120 owing to the destruction of their own time-honored hall by fire on the early morn. of May 19, 1871.

At an hour when nature’s calm repose gave a seeming safety,

To all the works of genius and skill that man had proudly built,

And lingering night her quiet vigils kept,

While the workmen in life’s busy scenes found refreshing rest,

And made slumbers’ soothing hours.


Fire’s dread alarm upon the midnight air was borne, 

Awakening, ere the time for rest expired, 

By nature’s laws allowed the slumbering craft who hurrying to the scene, 

Beheld with grief the mad carnival of rain the Fire King had made, 


Hope for a season, bright promise, gave for the safety of the temple, 

Bound to their hearts by a thousand ties, 

Whose very walls when danger threatened most, 

Bore silent witness to many a pleasant scene, 


But alas! In vain, 

Apprentice and fellow craft with master masons, 

In mighty efforts vied, their hall, to save!


For soon the towering spire, which for years, 

Had like a faithful guardian stood in proud majesty at the temple porch,

Sounding its own death knell at the hour of one, 

From its brazen thatch gave taken by its mighty fall, 


That the unchecked demon gathering new strength from the harm it had made, 

With ere long enwrap beneath its fiery arms all within their reach, 

Near and near still it’s heated breath, porch and temple approached, 

Which soon in burning shrouds helpless victims lay, 


With madly darking flames, 

The only lights for sepulcher, 

Which high to heaven ascends, 

As if in mockery of the feeble efforts of the craft to avert their doom,


Soon the blackened walls, like grim specters remained, 

Sad monuments of the joys and pleasures, 

The Craft had known within their honored hall,

Whose falled altars, the new born day, a silent language gave,


That in gloomy ancients words of sorrow spoke, 

To the heart of every brother that lingered there, 

As if loth to leave the mournful scene, 

Where once with kindred spirits they had happy been.


One ray of comfort they cherished then in that hour of gloom, 

The safety of all they prized beyond the temple they had lost, 

Whose value association gave, 

And whose loss the wealth of India could ne’er replace,


The charter, that bore the immortal name that was not “born to die,” 

The chair in which our first illustrious master sat, 

Crowned by a diadem of glory woven by a nation’s love, 

And letters of fraternal council by him to our fathers sent, 


Portraits of the honored dead, 

That adorned the temple walls, 

And objects held most dear,

were from destruction’s grasp,

By anxious daring brothers saved. 

To serve again as mementos of the past,

Valued once but two fold cherished now,

That they are linked in memory’s chain,

With objects forever lost. 


And soon we hope shall severe again,

That temple to adorn, 

Which willing hearts and active hands,

Shall build a glorious Phoenix, 


Magnificent in design, 

A fit monument to keep,

Alive the Glorious of the past,

That filled the fallen temple,

From whose ashes it shall arise.

Due to the building’s importance in local business and civic affairs, lodge members joined the town’s council and merchants to fundraise and immediately rebuild the hall. Adolf Cluss, a prominent local architect and Freemason, was selected to lead the project and rebuilt the edifice exactly as it stood before the incident with few notable exceptions. Cluss reinforced the hall’s interior with steel beams and stone to make it fireproof and worked with AW22 to build an expanded museum and lodge room. Alexandria-Washington occupied this space until 1945 when it moved over to the George Washington Masonic National Memorial.