Frank Lloyd Wright famously wrote, “Noble life demands a noble architecture for noble uses of noble men. Lack of culture means what it has always meant: ignoble civilization and therefore imminent downfall.” Freemasons of the 20th century certainly agreed with that sentiment. It could be argued that we kicked it off with a bang in the late 1890s with the Chicago Masonic Temple, which was the tallest building in the world for the moment. We kept at it up into the 1960s, which was maybe the sputtering end of the era when we still Thought Big, dreamed great dreams, and put our money where our dreams were.
Thursday’s edition of Time Out Los Angeles featured a story about another treasure of our fraternity lost to us, but saved and preserved by the outside world: the former Scottish Rite Cathedral of the Los Angeles Valley.The Cathedral originally opened in 1961, and was designed by famed mid-century LA architect Millard Sheets. It eventually became home to more than 11,000 Scottish Rite Masons by 1974. Almost ironically, it closed for all intents and purposes in 1994 – perhaps appropriately just 33 years after it opened. It was a victim of plunging membership, finances, Baby Boomer demographics, the changing American culture, NIMBY neighbors, and zoning regulations.