Thank you to Sheldon D. Stovall, Vice President/District Executive of the YMCA of Greater Houston for the following text: Cornerstones and the ritualistic ceremonies are as old as the art of building. The ceremony began with the most ancient colonies and has been passed down through the civilizations of Egypt, Babylon and Jerusalem.

The cornerstone-laying ceremony performed at the Houston Texans YMCA was the same service U.S. President George Washington used to lay the cornerstone in the nation’s Capitol building in 1793. Additionally, over 1,000 federal, state, county and municipal buildings, as well as schools, hospitals, churches and Masonic Lodges throughout the state received their cornerstones in the same way.


The ceremony is nondenominational; it has religious overtones to “implore the divine blessing of God to protect the workmen from accident, and to bless those who conceived the erection of the edifice and its humanitarian purposes and all those who will enter through its doors.”

Today’s dedication ceremony is the symbolic laying of the cornerstone, that which supports (again, symbolically) the entire structure. The Masons used ancient words to mimic the language of the operative masons, and they wore white aprons and white gloves as a badge of masonry to remind them of purity of life and conduct. When the cornerstone is discussed, by extension, it refers to the entire building project, and that, in turn refers not only to the actual physical actions to erect the building, but also to the mental, spiritual, even metaphysical energies that have come together to cause the creation of the edifice. The Masonic officers conducting the ceremony symbolically square, level, and plumb the cornerstone, assuring that it is set correctly, that “the Craftsmen have done their duty.”

This morning, the members of St. Joseph Grand Lodge of Texas carried the three symbolic ancient building tools: a square, level and plumb. These tools were used by operative masons to assure the cornerstone was perfect and laid accurately, and they are symbolic guides for Masonry conduct today.

The square stands for morality: by the square, we square our actions. The level stands for equality of all people, and the plumb for rectitude of life and conduct.

The masons poured wine on the cornerstone to symbolize abundance and the need to refresh bodies and spirits. They poured oil to symbolize the need to soothe wounds and afflictions and further the spirit, peace, and joy of brotherly love and harmonious relationships. They also poured corn to symbolize nourishment, health and heartiness of the workers, and the sustaining of all who enter the building.

After the Grand Lodge officers have squared, leveled and plumbed the cornerstone, the Grand Master “finished the work” by proclaiming the foundation stone “well formed, true and trusty” that these benefits and blessings be bestowed upon the project by the Great Architect of the Universe, God.


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