#TBT: Detroit’s Masonic Temple

masonic temple auditorium detroit

masonic temple, photo by ryan southen

On April 27, 1764, a charter for the “Zion Lodge of Masons, No. 1” – the first Masonic Lodge west of the Alleghenies – was granted to Masons in Detroit. Since I’m going to see Portugal the Man/Cage the Elephant there next weekend, that’s close enough for me to learn a little bit more…

Detroit’s Masonic Temple (aka The Masonic) is the largest building of its kind in the world. Construction began in 1920 and was completed in 1926. They explain:

By 1908, interest and membership in Masonic fraternities had grown to such an extent that the Masonic Temple Association of Detroit began to consider either enlarging the existing Masonic Temple on Lafayette Boulevard or building a new, larger facility.

Land on Bagg Street (now Temple Avenue) was acquired and by 1920, the architectural firm George Mason and Company had completed an integrated design of a multi-function complex. Ground was broken on Thanksgiving Day, 1920. The cornerstone was laid on September 18, 1922, during a ceremony attended by thousands of Detroiters, using a trowel previously used by George Washington during the construction of the U.S. Capitol.

Significantly, the opening of the theater was celebrated during a concert by the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Ossip Gabrilowitsch, on February 22, 1926–George Washington’s birthday. The formal dedication of the building took place on Thanksgiving Day, 1926. Once again, thousands of Detroiters were present for the ceremony.

George Mason’s unique design included three theaters (one was never completed, but is sometimes used by movie-production crews), a Shrine building, the Chapel, eight lodge rooms, a 17,500 square foot drill hall, two ballrooms, office space, a cafeteria, dining rooms, a barber shop, 16 bowling lanes–1037 rooms in total–in addition to a powerhouse that generated all electricity for the complex.

Mason also incorporated the artistic conceptions of the sculptor, Corrado Parducci, in the building’s magnificent lobby, which was an adaptation of the interior of a castle he had visited in Palermo, Sicily. Parducci also designed light fixtures and chandeliers, decorative arches, medallions, plaster decorations, and a myriad of other artistic details that are unique to the many varied spaces in the building.

Head over to The Masonic for lots of panoramic tours and also a panoramic view of the Corner Stone Laying. Also, if the name George Mason rings a bell, click that link to learn about this prolific architect whose works include Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel!

View Ryan’s photo bigger, see more in his HDR slideshow, and follow him on Facebook at Ryan Southen Photography.

PS: Lots more Michigan architecture on Michigan in Pictures.

PPS: It’s also supposedly very haunted!