Thursday, November 11, 2010

Detroit Masonic Temple On The Ropes Again

I have known this for a while, but the news hit papers yesterday. The deal that was the lifeline for the Detroit Masonic Temple has come to an end. The hope was that the Ilitch participation would revitalize the theatres and spur new development in the troubled Cass Corridor, which is off the beaten track from the downtown entertainment centers. An Ilitch-owned casino is just three blocks away from the Temple, and the dream was that the road between the two would be revitalized. Sadly, not in this economy.

Unfortunately, the Scottish Rite and the Shrine both abandoned the magnificent building several years ago, leaving the lodges and York Rite bodies on their own to maintain it, pay the utilities and taxes.

What comes next for the biggest Masonic building in the world is anyone's guess. If you have never visited the Temple, make the effort.

From the Detroit Free Press, "Ilitches' Olympia ends deal with Masonic Temple":

Olympia Entertainment said today it has ended its deal to operate the Masonic Temple, one of Detroit’s oldest show and concert venues, but owners of the facility say they will keep it open.

The entertainment company owned by the Ilitch family said in a statement released late this afternoon that it opted several months ago not to renew a contract to operate the facility after a two-year deal expired.

“During management of the venue, Olympia invested millions of dollars in the operations of the facility, including paying off and restructuring debt on behalf of the Masonic Temple Association,” the company said. “Olympia also worked diligently to book and promote entertainment acts and private events at the venue. We stepped into a very difficult situation and did our best, but unfortunately the business climate did not support continuation of the agreement.”

Olympia said it has continued to help manage and book events since the agreement ended in April. What’s next for the venerable facility that’s hosted shows and concerts, weddings and proms since 1926 wasn’t clear.

The Masonic Temple has two major theaters seating 4,300 and 1,500 respectively and ballrooms for up to 1,000 people.
Members of several Masonic clubs that own the building want to keep it open, said Dr. Bisham Singh, who is worshipful master of the Detroit Lodge No. 2, the city’s oldest Masonic group.
“We are hoping we can continue to have a house for the Masons and continue to host shows in Detroit,” said Singh of Chesterfield Township, a Detroit Medical Center physician.
“There's no truth to us mothballing the building,” said Roger Sobran, president of the Masonic Temple Association.

8 comments:

Nathan said...

Somebody needs to get up in the Michigan Legislature and offer a bill to remit the Temple's taxes in perpetuity -- as long as it is owned by the Freemasons, of course.

John Benton said...

Seriously, this should be a historic landmark in the US and be tax exempt accordingly. I'm kind of surprised that it's not.

Russ Spice said...

It is a registered historic landmark, but that doesn't pay the bills. Winter gas bills are $50,000 per month.

Richard said...

As Chris said, if you have not yet seen the inside of this magnificent structure, do so as soon as you have the opportunity. I was in the area for business in July and had the good fortune to be directed to Bro. John R. Snider. John was gracious enough to take time from his busy schedule to provide me a personal tour. In four hours we still didn't get through the whole place!

Masons in Pennsylvania also have a wondrous Masonic Landmark we are proud to call our own. Several million dollars were just spent on its restoration. It is a shame that the Detroit Temple is in such jeopardy.

I can fully relate to the costs of maintaining such old and large structures as my own lodge was forced to sell our "showcase" building several years ago due to similar constraints. But this structure is literally irreplaceable for a great many reasons. I truly hope that it can be preserved, and be more fully utilized for its intended purpose. It is, however, the Craft that needs to come to its rescue much more than Governmental intervention.

Richard Muth, WM
Parian Lodge No. 662
Beaver Falls, PA

2 BOWL CAIN said...

It's not easy maintaining a large facility, especially when the Grand body does not help either.

I bet the Grand bodies were all for these types of buildings being built at one time. Now when they need help, there is none?

The main reason behind the Halcyon situation, we new we had to save it alone, without any help or support from the head org.

Good luck Detroit!

Trustee said...

This is not the first Grand Temple of Free-Masons to be ruined and destroyed. It's part of a very long line of out-of-touch free spending Lodges and Grand Lodge which, like many American corporations rode high and kept nothing invested for future days of a turn down, which started in 1963. Keeping dues in the 1950's has not saved any Masonic Temple from the same fate.
Truly sad.........

Dr. R.J. Thompson said...

There are a great many more issues with the building than just taxes. The cost to run the Masonic Temple, just to keep the building open, is tremendous.

Masonic Traveler said...

Its a terrible lesson but maybe its a teaching moment to see what is and what isn't permanent in life.

The irony is that as outsiders we say save it, but those locally in power to have left, maybe they know something we don't.

for what its worth, if it were in my power to, I'd write a check for its preservation today, but at $50k a month on just heating, it may be time to reconsider its austerity.