David Ovason: TheSecret Architecture of the Nation's CapitalThe Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital

The Masons and the Building of Washington, D.C.

David Ovason

Review by Ed King

“Masons designed Washington, DC!” Websites trumpet this ‘news’ in huge red letters on a black forbidding background. Postings to Internet newsgroups point fingers accusingly and demand ‘an answer’ – or for Masons to prove that they didn’t. What's the problem? Hard to tell - except that in a lot of folks' minds today, Washington DC is the symbol of all evil - and if the damn Freemasons designed it, then they're part of the problem too.  

It’s no secret and Masons are proud to trumpet, often in a greatly exaggerated way, that members of the Fraternity were active during the War for Independence in the United States. It’s also well known that some of the brightest and most remembered men of that age were involved in the initial establishment of the government. (The oft-repeated claim that all of Washington’s Generals or that most of the signers of the Declaration of Independence are exaggerations that simply won’t die!) During and following the American Revolution, a large percentage of the population were Masons but to writers today, the reasons for this seem somehow unimaginable. (Those with an interest in this 'phenomena' are referred to Stephen Bullock's "Revolutionary Brotherhood".) 

His impressive credentials

In 1999, “The Secret Architecture of Our Nation’s Capital” was first published – oddly, considering the title - in Great Britain. Written by David Ovason, an astrologer (not an architect, by any stretch of the imagination or even an astronomer) whose other works included two books about Nostradamus, one of which trumpets Mr. Ovason's discovery of a secret language which had eluded all other researchers and the other, published AFTER the horrific events of September 11th, 2001 in New York claims to have now found a quatrain which foretold that event! It’s also important, we feel, to remind readers that an astronomer is one who is trained in science to understand the heavens; an astrologer is one who, usually self-taught and without any formal education in scientific subjects, determines what a person’s life events will be by contemplating the position of the constellations at the time of their birth: in short, a fortune teller. None of Mr. Ovason's books reveal his educational background. Perhaps there's a reason?

The book's supporters?

When 'our little friends’ on the Internet became aware of this book’s title, they immediately began to shout that this was the final proof of all of Masonic conspiracy. Ignoring both the book's actual contents as well as the author's credentials (or lack thereof) they immediately began to create all sorts of fanciful theories. They trumpeted the ‘approval’ of Freemasonry as evidenced by the preface written by C. Fred Kleinknecht, 33°, the Sovereign Grand Commander of the Southern (US) Scottish Rite Jurisdiction. If the ‘heir’ to Albert Pike would write an introduction to this book, this “proved” that Freemasons designed Washington, D.C.

Well, not quite! However before we proceed, it’s important to understand the significance of this claim that Masons designed Washington. On its face, it actually seems quite complimentary to the Fraternity while to many it would be met with a response of “So what?” or "Who cares?" Here's what: for those with over-developed imaginations, it’s a fearsome threat. To them, this ‘fact’ proves beyond any doubt their fears of a horrid Masonic conspiracy which – depending on the individual – may take a variety of forms. Some – ignoring the three hundred year experience of Freemasonry encouraging freedom of thought – argue that it is now clear Freemasonry is hell-bent on world conquest: that the ‘signs’ implanted in the Washington street layout along with that eye in the pyramid on the back of the dollar bill are the final proof. (Good thing they figured it out in 2000 after a couple of hundred years, isn’t it?)

The damn aliens again!

Others, taking their imaginations even further, note that the layout is proof that aliens from outer space influenced Masons who designed it. Laugh if you will but for some, this is desperately real and they’re convinced beyond any explanation. Those who’ve read this site for some time will recall our reporting that the huge Square and Compass placed in front of the George Washington National Masonic Memorial was opined by some as being the marker for the landing of the spacecraft at midnight on 1/1/2000 with the increase in postal rates to 33cents just preceding that as a forewarning. (Our friend and Brother Harry Lyons was there on Shooter's Hill in Virginia at the Memorial at midnight that night: alas, no spaceship - or at least that's what he's saying publicly - and now, ten years later, those aliens are still hiding, perhaps in the New York subways!)

And for the religious zealots, this ‘design’ in the street plan is a signal for all that the Masons are establishing a secret religion which will pave the way for the coming of the anti-Christ. Again, we’re a bit confused since the design has been there for a couple of hundred years and no one has seen the anti-Christ or any Masonic religion appear yet - but why let facts get into the way of a good yarn, eh?

Masonic encouragement? Really?

The Masonic connection is further emphasized by the introduction (a foreword, actually) written by C. Fred Klienknecht – and anti-Masons have made much of it. After reading their breathless claims for more than two years while awaiting US publication, it came as quite a shock to see what was actually written. The Sovereign Grand Commander writes that he sees a similarity ONLY between a ceiling design recommended by Albert Pike for a lodge (containing the constellations and planets) and the other constellation designs Ovason has found scattered in various statuary throughout Washington DC.  If that's an ‘endorsement’ of this work, it's pretty darn weak in our opinion. Here's the Grand Commander's last sentence of his foreword: “His thesis may be controversial, but it is well thought out and presented.”  If that’s what anti-Masons believe is unqualified support, it may be because they've unfamiliar with what a true endorsement looks like. Perhaps in the workplace, they've never had the cause to get one....

And it was also to our surprise that Mr. Ovason seems quite uninterested in any of the theories as to why Masons would have gone to such great lengths to ‘embed’ a message into the design of the capital city. His imagination about what Masons ostensibly know, however, seems boundless and aids in his fantasy at every turn. He writes in his Acknowledgement, “My thanks go to all those Masons and Masonic Lodges of present time who have helped me with questions which must surely have amused those privy to the deeper secrets.” And so, on this presumption, the book moves forward.

It was on Page 9 when the first of many, many unsubstantiated claims came leaping forth. In glancing through the book prior to reading, we'd noted nearly 70 pages of tightly-spaced footnotes. Surely these would at least allow us to follow through on the author's claims, right? But yet, he begins a discussion about the land on which Washington DC now stands and notes wishfully that the ownership by John Pope would be pleasant historically (in some sort of cosmically-ordained way, apparently) if that individual was related to John Pope who had settled in Massachusetts in 1630. He notes that John (from Dorchester) was ‘a distant forbear’ of the architect John Russell Pope. Footnote for his source? Not a chance!

It's a technique regularly used in 'popular' literature surrounding Freemasonry today. Similar to the bestselling The Hiram Key, Mr. Ovason makes a fanciful assumption and then later uses this to buttress yet another of his own theories.  

In that cloud formation I see a doggie....

In truth, anyone looking at the early layout of Washington, DC can, with a bit of imagination, see the design of a square and compass. Dan Brown in his much later work, The Lost Symbol, notes this quite clearly to the chagrin of the main character's students. That these are the implements used by Freemasonry to remind members to circumscribe their desires and keep their passions within due bounds with all mankind is undeniable. Just as undeniable, however, is that operative architects have used such implements for thousands of years and some of them surely must have been inspired by their grace and practical applications of their tools - even if they'd never joined the fraternity of Freemasons. But wait: that's not what Ovason is writing about: it's VIRGO!!!!! Yes, the thrust of this book is about the number of things that someone can play 'connect the dots' with and come up with a rough approximation of what the constellation Virgo looks like. 

Here's an example: “The cornerstone for the Washington Monument was laid at the northeast corner of the foundation in the early afternoon of July 4, 1848.  As I have indicated, probably one reason why the Masons chose to lay the stone in the afternoon was because they wished to allow the all-important Virgo to become operative in the chart.  Shortly before lunchtime on that day, the Moon went into Virgo." Probably? Why? Footnote? Naw.... In point of actual fact, NO ONE seems able to ever produce any documentation whatsoever that Freemasons in the United States ever used astrological information for anything other than hoping that the weather might be good for a cornerstone laying. (The 'Old Farmer's Almanac' was known to be kept in some lodges in New England, particularly those which met by the light of the full moon....)

Virgo, to Mr. Ovason seems to be everywhere. "In fact, there was another Virgoan influence in this chart which might be missed by someone not familiar with the workings of astrology.  The all-important Dragon’s Head in the 1848 chart is in 25 degrees of Virgo."

And yet, while Mr. Ovason wants to tie the Masons to the Virgo designs, he seems remarkably uninformed about who is a Mason and who isn't. He writes about Pierre L'Enfant, the original designer of Washington, “Later, he undertook special duties for Washington in France, where (almost certainly being a Mason) he organized a branch of the Society of Cincinnati, for which he designed its emblem.”  Aha! A footnote: surely this will provide enlightenment to support his parenthetical assertion. What do we find? A footnote stating:  “It is very likely that L’Enfant was a Mason.”  <SIGH>  In addition, he glibly identifies Vinnie Ream (a sculptress and close friend of Albert Pike) and Madame Blavatsky as Masons. So much for his scrupulous research....

Not-so-keen observations

Talking about the George Washington Monument, Mr. Ovason writes “In spite of such delays and setbacks, a considerable change of vision was required to move from so thoroughly a neoclassical design as a horse-rider, to an obelisk which was essentially Egyptian in spirit.  Historical documents indicate that this change was directed by Masons. Furthermore, not only was the form of the monument different from that anticipated by L’Enfant, it was not even sited in the position he had visualized.” Alas, yet again not a single footnoted anything to explain how Ovason has come to the conclusion it was directed by Masons (of the 'Freemason' variety)!

There are constant references to various parties being “keen astronomers” but Mr. Ovason apparently doesn't understand or appreciate the essential part astronomy played in military (and most especially naval) science of the day. The 'important people' of those times were, for the most part, military men: whether their service involved moving troops across land or handling ships across water, there was an ongoing reliance upon celestial navigation and it thus stands to reason that the level of understanding of astronomy in those days would be far, far greater than it is today with GPS in our cars speaking to us with the next turn to be made. The author is apparently oblivious to the fact that even today, naval officers learn celestial navigation but that two hundred years ago, long before printing was readily available and maps were even marginally reliable, anyone who was responsible for military troops, surveying, foresting, exploring or a whole host of other occupations (including farming) would certainly be a 'keen astronomer'. There was no 'radar weather' to give wrong predictions so even those tending animals in the most remote regions would need, of necessity, be 'keen astronomers'.

We found it particularly interesting that Ovason's work makes much of the year 1881 (the supposed Trithemian doctrine of planetary angels) and claims (without substantiation) that occultists were alert to the critical importance of that year of change. However, because Pike was not particularly interested in that year, Mr. Ovason dismisses this lack of interest by saying that “...his attention must have been on other things.” Convenient, isn't it?

He makes broad statements unsupported by fact. Here's but one example: “By contrast, the astrological conditions pertaining to the ritual of the cornerstone were rarely made public. This was nothing to do with “Masonic secrecy” – it was merely a continuation of an ancient tradition.” One supposes that it's awfully difficult to make things public when they were likely never thought of - but that's much too mundane obviously.

The hidden confession - it's NOT the Masons, except coincidentally

Three hundred and fifty plus pages later and only three pages from the end of the book, we find this revealing commentary:

"It is not possible to work as a historian in the United States today without observing the understandable doubts which some Christian religious groups have concerning esotericism. If, as a Christian myself, I may venture an opinion in this context, it is that the Bible appears to have been written in such a way as to accommodate the understanding of a vast range of different beliefs, most of which find a meeting point in the seminal Mystery of the Christian religion, which is the Resurrection.  Among this range of beliefs is one that might be typified as Christian esotericism, which approaches Christian texts and traditions in the light of hermetic thought. Generally speaking, an informed and well-intended analysis of esoteric Christianity is unlikely to unearth beliefs which conflict in any significant way with the traditions pertaining to the hallowed Mysteries of Christianity, or with the great cosmic and moral truths we find in the Bible.  Beyond offering keys to such Mysteries, Christianity is a moral force, which should be capable of harboring a wide variety of opinions, and which should not harbor hatreds – especially hatreds directed at communalities of beliefs, in which differences are often peripheral or minor.

I introduce this thought because, given certain reactions to my previous works, I suspect that misunderstandings may arise about what I have and have not claimed in this present book.  I have been surprised by the number of people who have taken it upon themselves to criticize some of my earlier writings without having done me the courtesy of reading what I have written. The general tenor of such criticism seems to arise from the misconception that any hermetic idea must be in some way diabolic, or linked with black magic. This is completely untrue. 

In view of such misunderstandings, I would like to make it quite clear that I am not for one moment suggesting that it was “the Masons who built Washington, D.C.,” or that Mason’s Lodges ever had a coordinated, formulated plan to influence the growth of the city in any way. <Emphasis added> As a careful reading of this text will have indicated, I am claiming merely that Washington, D.C., was designed and built on Christian hermetic principles derived from, or linked with, ancient cosmological ideas.  In exploring this truth, I observe that some of the people involved in the building of the city, besides being architects, planners and artists, happened also to be Masons. I am reasonably sure that in just about every case these individuals were also committed Christians. It would be patently absurd (if only because it is so obvious) for me to labor the point that Washington, D.C., was built by Christians.”

So what's all the fuss about? Who knows.... It's certainly clear from reading this work that this book is FAR from the proof of any nefarious deeds or plans by Masons or Masonry. That will not, of course, stop anti-Masons from making their ridiculous claims. 

After having read both this work as well as Mr. Ovason's The Secrets of Nostradamus. we can only suggest that having found that remarkable prediction of the terrorist attacks on New York after they happened, this is not an author we'll follow further - and not a book we'd recommend. Should you choose to, here's a link to Amazon.

You can find another similar commentary on this fanciful work of fiction at the Grand Lodge of British Columbia website here.

Full Disclosure: This book was purchased by me from Amazon using my own funds. I received no inducements to provide this review. Ed King


Home Reading Book Reviews Book Sources Masonic Resources

Prince, the Search DogJust click on "Prince, the Search Dog" to find things on our site. He's here on every page and he'll take you directly to our search form where you can see if we've written about whatever it is you're interested in. Prince has a great memory; he always remembers where things are! We also encourage you to use our Site Map and Contents Page for a full overview of the many things you'll find here.

This site and its contents are © (copyright) 1998-2014 by Edward L. King (Ed King). All rights reserved. All comments and opinions are mine personally.

Got some thoughts or reactions? We'd be interested in your comments - within reason of course.
If you want to contact us, see here to avoid spam filters!