Borderstan has learned that The Temple Garden, a local community garden on property owned by the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry at 1733 16th Street NW, will be closing after the 2011 harvest. The garden is on the 15th Street side of their property between R and S Streets NW.
In a letter to garden President David Rosner, the president of the The House of the Temple Historic Preservation Foundation, Ronald Seale said, “In connection with certain conservation efforts we are undertaking at the House of the Temple building, we need to use the garden lots as a staging, parking and storage area.”
In the letter, Seale went on to say “although the garden area of our property will be closed, we will continue to be a responsible and contributing member of the neighborhood.” The Freemason’s House of the Temple building and the residential Chastleton building are neighborhood icons that respectively anchor the north and south corners of the eastside of the 16th Street between R and S Streets.
David Rosner, president of the Temple Garden told Borderstan:
“We are deeply saddened to learn that the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, House of the Temple has announced that it will close its community garden on 15th and S Streets NW at the end of 2011. The Temple Garden has been a community institution since 1990. An estimated 800 individuals have at one time or another tended plots in the Temple Garden, and we currently have over 100 members tending more than 75 plots. The Temple Garden has always been supportive of activities and initiatives on the part of the Scottish Rite, and we hope to continue to be so. The gardening community hopes to be able to work with the Scottish Rite to find a solution that enables the garden to continue to support the community.”
Borderstan attempted to speak with a Temple representatives regarding the garden, but staff have not returned our calls.
The popular community garden has been a haven for city dwellers with a green thumb in search of a place to cultivate flowers, herbs and vegetables for 20 years. The quarter acre site has become such an enduring part of the neighborhood that it has it’s own website and rules. The plots are reserved for D.C. residents who don’t have a place to garden — preference is given to those residents in the 20005, 20009, and 20036 zip codes.
The Temple Garden is located on the southeast corner of the Freemason’s plot and adjacent to the alley linking 15th and 16th streets NW on the south and the fenced-off portion of the House of the Temple garden and S Street to the north.
The temple and surrounding property are located in Advisory Neighborhood Commission (ANC) 2B, district 04. The district is represented by Commissioner Jack Jacobson.
Jacobson told Borderstan: “I had hoped that the Scottish Temple would be interested in working with the community to preserve a portion of the garden, or commit to reinstating the garden once their much-needed and required building repairs. Unfortunately they are unable to make those long-term commitments at this time. I hope that once repairs are completed, we can work together as a community to bring the gardens back. Unfortunately, the agreement the Temple made with the community to create a garden in exchange for closing part of an alley that had run through the property expired several years ago. I’m hopeful that, as a community, we can identify another space for the gardeners to move to in close proximity.”
The Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and the neighborhood landmark House of the Temple building, have been the national headquarters of the Supreme Council 33°, Southern Jurisdiction, since 1915. The Temple was designed by John Russell Pope, who was also architect of the National Archives, the Jefferson Memorial, the west building of the National Gallery of Art and the National City Christian Church on Thomas Circle. The Temple design is based on the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.