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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Indiana Landmarks Foundation Tour a Great Success!

Photo by Randy Spaulding

On Thursday evening, Jim Dillman, myself, our Museum intern from IUPUI Rebecca Jacobs, and PGM Mike Brumback (seen above) manned the Masonic Library and Museum of Indiana exhibits at tonight's open house for the Indiana Landmarks Foundation. Ultimately, some 250 folks (almost all non-Masons) got to tour the Indianapolis Masonic Temple (née Indiana Freemasons' Hall). The whole building was open from top to bottom, giving our city and state's residents an opportunity to freely roam our historic Temple building, hear a restored pipe organ (one of six in the building), peek in lodge and York Rite rooms, and explore the museum. 


One of the major draws for architectural enthusiasts was the Knights Templar Red Cross Room on the 7th Floor of the Temple. The decor is unique in the building, being adorned in an "Egyptian" motif. Above the entrance to the room is a small balcony which was originally used by a small choir or soloist. There is also a special vent designed to allow the organ on the balcony in the adjacent Raper Commandery No. 1's Asylum to be used for musical accompaniment in that room as well. 

The Red Cross room is used by the Commandery for the conferral of the Order of the Red Cross, and for the meetings of Imhotep Council No. 434, of the Allied Masonic Degrees.

The Grand Lodge Hall auditorium as it appears today.

Great job by ALL of the volunteers and the Temple Association for all of the very hard work involved in organizing and pulling off this event. There were guides on every floor, and the folks coming through were uniformly impressed and awed by the building. They, too, were extremely appreciative of being permitted free reign to roam at will and to discover our hidden gem. Time after time, we all heard "I've driven past a thousand times and never dreamed what was inside..."

I was told that things got off to a slow start, because so many people walked into the auditorium first and became so awestruck by it, they were reluctant to move on without some gentle arm-twisting. Originally the home of the annual communication for the Grand Lodge of Indiana up until 1962, the auditorium has languished, largely unused and undiscovered by the outside world (and even many Masons), for well over 50 years. This hidden 600-seat gem has the opportunity to host local theatre productions, public speeches and concerts, and so much more. So, it's not out of the ordinary for local people to be stunned that it even exists.

The dedicated board of the Indianapolis Masonic Temple Association (IMTA) is shoveling coal as fast as they can to preserve, protect, and restore the whole building. Perhaps some visionaries in the Indiana Landmarks Foundation now see the tremendous, untapped resources that so many of us have been trying to save for over a decade. And perhaps someone from within their ranks will come forward and help us to find creative solutions in financing, loans, grants, or donations, as well as innovative, revenue-generating rethinking of some of the least used rooms. 


We all know that we are just an elevator failure away from losing the whole building, and like so many others, once gone, our Grand Lodge's voting members and trustees and officers will doubtless never again have the vision they had in 1909 to replace it. Many of them have aging building problems of their own, much less give a tinker's damn about Indianapolis'. 


The Brethren who built these magnificent and commodious places didn't ask us to build bigger or better than they left for us. They scrimped and saved and personally donated money they couldn't always afford in order to construct a true Temple worthy of its name. They did the hard work for us. They just expected us to at least be good custodians and protectors of what they left us. Maybe this tour tonight was a first, tiny baby step that might eventually lead to bigger, better, and more audacious plans. 

I pray it is.

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