On Thursday, the KCET website (Los Angeles' PBS affiliate) put together an article for seeking out some of the major Masonic landmarks in that sprawling city.
From Where to Explore L.A.’s Masonic Past (Without Joining the Fraternal Order) by Sandi Hemmerlein:
It’s the oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world, yet most of us who aren’t a part of it are still mystified by its symbols, rituals and clandestine operations.
Freemasonry may seem like an Old World tradition — but here in Los Angeles, it reached its peak popularity in the late 1960s!
Unfortunately, membership into Masonic fraternities took a nosedive in the latter part of the last century. That’s after having touted top-notch members such as Douglas Fairbanks, John Wayne, Cecil B. DeMille, Walt Disney, D.W. Griffith and Oliver Hardy just decades prior.
Although it may have still been ground zero for the illuminati, at some point freemasonry lost its Hollywood-linked glitterati.
But the Masonic brotherhood seems to have piqued the interest of newer generations — and it’s shown signs of rebounding in the 21st century, with former lodges and temples getting reused for new purposes and introducing the uninitiated to the cryptic and enigmatic world of secret handshakes and ancient iconography...
This list is by no means exhaustive - there are many, many more present and former Masonic halls and temples all across Los Angeles County. But this particular list includes:
- Al Malaikah Shrine Auditorium (location of the Academy Awards ceremonies in years past)
- the Geffen Playhouse in Westwood that was originally built in 1929 as UCLA's Masonic Affiliates Clubhouse (back when there were enough college students over 21, alumni, numerous professors and school employees who were Freemasons to support their own campus clubhouse). It lasted as a Masonic clubhouse up into the 1970s.
- the magnificent former Hollywood Lodge 355 on Hollywood Boulevard, known better today as the Dolby Theater (part of the El Capitan Entertainment Center) and home to Jimmy Kimmel's show
- the former Masonic Lodge at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery
- the former Scottish Rite Cathedral on Wilshire Boulevard that opened very briefly as the Marciano Art Collection Museum before it mysteriously shut down again last year without explanation
- the former Highland Park Lodge that is now a music venue, but with its beautiful lodge room murals intact
All of these buildings, with the notable exception of the 1960s Scottish Rite Cathedral, were built by Freemasons in the 1920s during the last years of the City Beautiful Movement, as well as the end of the Golden Age of Fraternalism.
Note all of those "former" adjectives. Less than a century later, it should be noted that only the Shriners still own their's. All the rest of these Masonic halls outlived the ability of our members to support them. Yet today they all remain centerpieces of the community, even if 'the Masons" don't anymore. They were all built to be significant structures for us and the public, and to stand the test of time.
No one in the year 2120 will say that about our modern-day pole barn Masonic Halls. If we can't equal or better our great-grandfathers in their vision, hopes and accomplishments, the very least we can do is protect and improve what they left for us.
That goes for our remaining important Masonic structures, and for the fraternity itself, too. Are we building and improving the sort of fraternity that the visionary, deep-pocketed, big-thinking, successful business or community leaders of today would want to join as enthusiastically as they did a century ago?
The answer to that is, of course, no.
The real question that must be answered is, why not?