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Monday, February 01, 2016

The Old San Francisco Scottish Rite Building

There is a positively terrible article today on the SF Gate website about a building in San Francisco called the Regency Center. The story simply refers to the building as a "multi-purpose structure with a Freemason lodge," without delving much deeper, apart from the usual profane references to secret ceremonies. But if you have a scroll through the photos on the website of the interior details, you will see that it is, in fact, the former San Francisco Scottish Rite building, and with another very specific detail that suggests York Rite bodies met here as well.  

From the article:

But while many people have only seen the Ballroom and entrance, most of the building's reticent history is upstairs in the Lodge. "The Lodge would be reserved for rituals or for people who had been raised to higher levels," Garrett says, adding that there are some curious things they've learned about the construction of the room. 
For one, the walls were lined with velvet chairs — thrones, actually, is a more accurate descriptor — each of which was reserved for a member of the Freemasons during special ceremonies.  
"[The chairs] would be placed in a special pattern, like a sacred geometry type thing, to kind of emanate energy," Garrett says. "Like, there's power in a circle...Obviously, there was a lot of thought going into it." 
Oh boy. Spooky. 

A few more rational details are available on the MagazineUSA.com website:
The mystery and tradition of the Masons are woven into the very foundation of the Regency Building. After two years of construction, the building was finished in 1909 and is thought to be the finest example of Scottish Rite temple architecture in the United States. Scottish Rite Masonry is one of the numerous branches of the Freemasons, a secret fraternal organization hundreds of years old. The architecture, designed to emphasize secrecy, gives the impression of alluring mystery. In 1961 the Grand Ballroom Level was leased out to the Regency Theatre and movies were shown here until the end of 1998. The Masons had the building until 1997, at which time the Regency Building took over the space as an event venue. 
The street level floor, now called the Sutter Room, was a dining and drill hall and features stunning arched ceilings. The Grand Ballroom Level above, was used for public assembly and balls. With its 35 foot high ceiling, hardwood floor and large stage, the ballroom and banquet tradition continues. The Lodge, on the third level where secret meetings took place, is a classic example of Gothic architecture complimented by crimson walls, 30 hand painted backdrops dating from the 1910's and 20's and a functional 1909 pipe organ.

More photos of the building are available on the Regency Center website HERE.

After they moved out, the San Francisco Scottish Rite went on to build a bigger and better facility, which is their home today. Have a look at it here.


  1. In 2013, my lodge (Mission #169) had our installation there when I served as Master during our Sesquicentennial year. Good times.

    Andrew M. Brumana, PM

  2. There were two Scottish Rite Valleys in San Francisco. The Valley which sold the building on Van Ness and Sutter did not move out and build a bigger and better facility. The 19th Avenue Scottish Rite had existed for years and was the home of the "other" Valley. It was a consolidation which led to the move.
    Stan Bransgrove, PM
    Mill Valley Lodge No. 356, F&AM


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