Preserving the Oldest Public Building in Historic Franklin.
The Historic Franklin Masonic Hall remains one of the earliest and best examples of Gothic buildings in Middle Tennessee. Nestled within the original land plots of Franklin, Construction began in 1823-1826. Today, the imposing three storied building houses the Masons of Hiram Lodge No. 7 (c.1809) the oldest continuous lodge in Tennessee. While the second and third floors were purposed for the Masons, the first floor was designed for the town meeting space. Many of Franklin’s religious denominations began on the first floor, including St. Paul’s Episcopal now located on West Main Street. In August of 1827, the first Episcopal bishop of Tennessee, Reverend James Harvey Otey, who later became Worshipful Master of Hiram Lodge No. 7 (c.1835-1836) remains one of the many men who influenced Franklin not only in religion, but also, masonry.
The Masonic Hall became the location for the negotiation and eventual signing of the Treaty of Franklin in August of 1830. This significant act remains the only time in American history where a sitting President traveled outside of Washington D.C. to discuss American Indian removal. President Andrew Jackson, met with the Chiefs of the Chickasaw nations during the negotiations. Also present were also President Andrew Jackson’s Secretary of War, John Eaton and General John Coffee, a member of Jackson’s cabinet. While Jackson only stayed for roughly 36 hours in Franklin, Eaton and Coffee remained to complete the treaty. The treaty allowed for Chickasaws to have the ability to choose the land west of the Mississippi River. After several years, the Chickasaws insisted the lands of the west were not comparable. Unfortunately, time ran out. The treaty became null and void and the Chickasaws were removed to land that now present day Oklahoma. The Treaty of Franklin set a precedence for American Indian removal and laid the groundwork for the eventual removal of the Cherokee nations now known as the Trail of Tears.
At the start of the American Civil War, many local men became Masons under special dispensation. In the Spring of 1861, the first floor became a textile factory as many of the local, prominent women and their slaves made Confederate uniforms for the various local regiments from the town and county. With the fall of Nashville in February of 1862, Franklin witnessed Federal soldiers entering the town soon afterward. By the early spring of 1863, Franklin came under complete Federal occupation, with many of the buildings in town, including the Masonic Hall, being used as barracks. Today, many Federal soldier’s names may still be seen on the walls on the second floor. Following the horrific five hour Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, the Masonic Hall became a hospital for wounded and dying Federal soldiers.
It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1973.