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Wednesday, January 29, 2020

Waco and Dayton Stress Community Roles Of Masonic Temples


After being on the road for almost two full months we've finally made our way home and I'm slowly catching up on some past stories that I missed.

The Waco Tribune-Herald highlighted the Grand Lodge of Texas' impressive headquarters in Waco back on January 11th. Their imposing granite Temple, built in 1948, was designed as a modernist depiction of Solomon's Temple on the exterior, based on then-current archeological theories of its style (which have varied wildly according to fantasies and winds of fashion for a thousand years). 





This amazing 150,000 square foot Temple has a 3,700 seat auditorium and was built at least two decades after the greatest Masonic building boom in the U.S. during the City Beautiful movement of 1900-1929. According to the article it was designed by a team of Texas modernist architects that included Robert Leon White, who helped design the distinctive University of Texas Tower; Thomas Broad, who designed the Love Field Administration Building in Dallas; and Donald Nelson, who designed the Dallas Mercantile Bank building. The resident Waco architect was Walter Cocke Jr. Texas Masons spared no expense and lavished $2 million on it in 1948 (more than $23 million today):

From Grand Lodge of Texas an overlooked treasury of history, architecture by J.B. Smith:


The building façade includes a stained-glass depiction of the origins of Texas Freemasonry near an oak tree in Brazoria. At ground level is a carved bas-relief sculpture of the construction of Solomon’s Temple by the French sculptor Raoul Josset, known for his sculptures at Dallas Fair Park, the 1939 World’s Fair and the La Salle statue in Indianola, Texas. He also designed the giant pillars that hold celestial and terrestrial globes.
The article also features WB Robert Marshall of Waco Lodge 92, who shows off the extensive Grand Lodge library and museum in the building.




An important aspect stressed in the article is the role of the Temple in the community of Waco - how it has been used in the past, and the importance it needs to retain in the future:



The building has been used in the past for community events such as Waco Symphony Orchestra concerts, and it is still available for rent. Marshall said the two-level auditorium was designed to give everyone the best seat in the house, and the acoustics are superb.

About three years ago, climate control was installed for the auditorium, making it suitable for events year-round.

Marshall said he believes the facility needs more community use if it is to continue serving Waco through the coming decades.

“As Masons, we use this three weekends out of the year,” he said. “The other 49 weeks, it could be used for anything. … I think there’s a giant gap between the potential value and the actual value of the building. It could really be a hotbed of culture.”






On a similar note, Dayton, Ohio's 1928 Masonic temple (now known as the Dayton Masonic Center) has recently undergone $2 million worth of renovations and has formed an independent, local promotions team to book more weddings, concerts and public events.

From Dayton Masonic Center gets upgrade and new focus as concert venue by Don Thrasher in the Dayton Daily News on Tuesday:





“The Masonic Center’s main Schiewetz Auditorium space is a pristinely preserved, one-of-a-kind theater,” Dayton Masonic Live’s facilities manager Brian Johnson said. “As a still independently owned and operated facility, this sizable investment to updates is yet another milestone in Dayton’s renaissance that we’re excited to help actualize through great concerts and events.”

The Masonic Center, formerly known as the Masonic Temple, was completed and dedicated in April 1928. It has been the site of meetings, conferences, dinners, concerts and more. Dayton Masonic Live, which has a seating capacity of about 1,700, is now booking “a diverse mix of entertainment options, including nationally touring bands, renowned tribute acts, spoken word performers, along with family-centric and local events.”



[snip]

“The Masonic Center has always had a commitment to Dayton through hosting a variety of local events over the years,” Johnson said. “As we continue to activate the space more and more, we still want to have a strong commitment to our neighbors. We want Dayton Masonic Live to be a space where everyone feels welcome.”
The points made in both articles cannot be stressed enough. If our most significant Masonic halls and temples are to survive and thrive in this age of shrinking interest in our fraternity, we need to remind our communities (and ourselves) that these were meant to be places for the public, too. Our predecessors were active civic participants and leaders - they built and grew our towns and cities; they founded, ran or worked at the local industries; and they contributed mightily to local charities and causes long before we became obsessed with national, industrialized charities on a massive scale. The temples were an extension of their insistence that Masonic ideals were transmitted to the public and infused their actions every day. Time after time, local citizens would comment when some project was funded or completed, "Oh, the Masons did that." Masonic buildings, like Masons themselves, made up the very fabric of our communities. It's long past time we took up that banner again. We can start by opening our halls and temples as meeting and gathering places for everyone.

2 comments:

  1. Thanks for this read. I love seeing what other Masonic Halls are doing and hope our own large hall in Indianapolis will eventually be used to its fullest.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Brother John, I share your enthusiasm when Chris highlights our temples. We need to wake up and save all that are remaining. And I might add, their libraries.

    ReplyDelete

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