But along with the building craze among fraternal groups to out-do each other with their impressive clubhouses, there was a revolution going on in theatrical staging technology. New electric lighting, elaborate stage rigging and on-stage theatrical visual tricks, acoustic auditorium design, fireproofing, complex pipe organs with sound effects, and much more moved out of just Broadway and big city venues and fanned out into these enormous but private theatres constructed solely for the purpose of conferring fraternal degree rituals upon thousands of candidates each year. The fastest growing fraternal group in the U.S. during this period was the Scottish Rite, and for good reason.
The Santa Fe, New Mexico Scottish Rite Temple, designed by Isaac Hamilton Rapp and opened in 1912 for the Scottish Rite Valley of Santa Fe, is a unique landmark Masonic building for a variety of reasons that extent beyond just its distinctive Moorish-revival, pinkish exterior (derided by some locals as "the Pepto-Bismol building"). Like so many other Masonic buildings across the country, it has teetered back and forth on prosperity or extinction over the years, as the fraternity wrestles with plunging membership, criminally low dues, too much real estate, and failure by our forefathers to create foundations and long-range planning. Nevertheless, there remains a longstanding interest by area Masons and non-Masons alike to preserve and maintain this particular unique Masonic temple, and it has recently been made available to the public for event rentals.
A new book has just been published that captures the Santa Fe Scottish Rite Temple in a unique manner. The Santa Fe Scottish Rite Temple: Freemasonry, Architecture, and Theatre edited by Wendy Waszut-Barrett with photography by Jo Whaley has just been published by the Museum of New Mexico Press ($39.95 hardcover). Nearly 150 photographs document the Temple inside and out, including images of every hand-painted backdrop used by Santa Fe to present the 29 degrees of the Scottish Rite of the Southern Jurisdiction. But in a departure from just flat photos of painted scenery, Whaley has brought them to life by populating every scene with Masons and other actors appropriately costumed as they would appear in each degree.
In 2000, Wendy Waszut-Barrett founded a company specializing in historic theater scenery restoration, and led the restoration of the Santa Fe Scottish Rite scenery collection starting back in 2002. Her illustrated article, “Theatrical Interpretations of the Indispensable Degrees” appeared in Heredom No. 12. It discussed how the Scottish Rite grew so fast and so large, principally by its use of theatrical presentations. Today she is president of Historic Stage Services LLC in Minnesota, and is widely considered to be the top expert in restoration and preservation of these unique backdrops that we Masons (and those who inherit or purchase our abandoned buildings) tend to take for granted.
Today (Sunday, June 24th), there will be an open house, presentations, the kick-off release of the new book, and tours of the Sante Fe Temple between 4-6 p.m. Bagpiper Robert Schlaer will welcome the public at 4 p.m., followed by Eric Fricke playing the center’s organ, presentations by editors Wendy Waszut-Barrett (text) and Jo Whaley (photography), and then a “Scenic Spectacle” with Masons in costume and Morrow Hall playing the organ. There will also be tours of the building, book signings, and refreshments in the grand ballroom. The presentation and Scenic Spectacle repeat at 6 p.m.
The Scottish Rite Center is located at 463 Paseo de Peralta in Santa Fe.
For much more information, see Making Like Masons by Paul Weideman on the Pasatiempo website today HERE.
Incidentally, the Masonic Restoration Foundation 2018 Symposium will be held at the Santa Fe Scottish Rite Temple August 10-12th. CLICK HERE for more information.