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Tuesday, April 10, 2018
Detroit Masonic Temple Begins $3.7 Million Renovation
The care and feeding of a truly landmark Masonic Temple is far from easy, and takes constant work. Fortunately, there are brethren who will not let these priceless treasures go down without a fight. Case in point: the Detroit Masonic Temple.
Ever since I joined this fraternity 19 years ago, I've had a special place in my heart for Detroit's Temple. If you've never visited it before, you must go out of your way and do so. It is the largest Masonic building in the world, with 1,037 rooms, three theatre auditoriums, an indoor drill team hall, an indoor pool, bowling lanes, barber shop, dormitory rooms, dining rooms for thousands of guests, and a dozen lodge rooms. And more. Much more. Every inch of the enormous block-long complex is covered in loving detail from the heady days of the 1920s when Detroit's automotive pioneer titans like Henry Ford and the Dodge brothers competed with each other in donating to its building fund. We don't have many members like that these days, I'm afraid.
But also since I joined, the Temple has spent those same 19 years teetering on the brink of being sold, auctioned, bankrupted, taxed into the Stone Age, or just falling to pieces. After both the Scottish Rite and Shrine left the Temple in the early 2000s, things looked very bleak indeed for the remaining lodges and York Rite bodies in the "fraternal tower." And yet, something always seemed to happen at the last minute.
Well, this weekend the Detroit Masonic Temple Association has announced a new $3.7 million investment to repair and refurbish parts of the sprawling building. $2.5 million is to be spent on exterior work alone, but the remaining money will go for rest rooms, insulation, and improvements to the heating and cooling system. The hope is to lease out 30,000 of its 55,000 square feet as business or hotel space. The money is from a loan, not an outside investor or donor, but that's a big difference from where they were just five years ago when few outsiders had confidence in the Temple. The MTA seems to have picked up some more true believers these days, and that's because they never gave up.
The Masonic hosts about 300 events a year. Half of those are lodge meetings and the rest are things like weddings, plays, corporate events and concerts. The Temple has an annual budget of about $1.4 million, 90% of which comes from event revenue. And they are very inventive when it comes to attracting events, like the annual Theatre Bizarre that just gets bigger each year.