The looming fortress that is the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire Blvd in Hancock Park was featured in a story this week on CurbedLA and is well worth a read. Not only is it a treat to see photos of interior rooms in the Temple (so much fabric used!), but its fascinating to read the background story on how the design of the building for the secretive Mason society came about, through the words of the artist and ‘architectural designer’ Millard Sheets.
Curbed LA dug up an oral history file of an interview with Millard Sheets done in the 1970s, so we learn straight from the man’s mouth just what it was like working with the Masons. In the transcript, Sheets describes the building’s details that we all seem to take for granted after years of passing by the solemn, grand and windowless bastion that sits on the edge of Windsor Square. Included in the transcript are discussion of the multitude of inscriptions, marbled facades and statues that adorn the temple, as well as the large exterior mosaic on the east (Plymouth Bl) side of the building that traces the history of temple builders from ancient times to modern California.
The Scottish Rite site has been mostly dark since 1994 when the shrinking Freemason society could no longer handle the expense of managing the property. The 1960 building and its two acre lot have been on and off the real estate market for years, unable to find the right buyer at the right price who can envision the perfect re-use of the grand shrine. Many local residents stand firm in the belief that only a non-profit organization be allowed on the site, as per City zoning regulations, and that the facility not become a noisy, crowd-drawing venue on the edge of its quiet residential streets. But others want to see the site opened again and re-purposed, becoming a vibrant facility enjoyed by the public for its unique and historic contribution to the community.
Asked about his thoughts on the property, John H. Welborne, Vice-President for Planning and Land Use of the Windsor Square Association, said “There definitely are ways to preserve most of the building and its wonderful Millard Sheets and Albert Stewart artwork. This can be done in compliance with the adopted Park Mile Specific Plan.” But finding the right buyer at this time remains a mystery given current zoning regulations and homeowner concerns. Welborne believes that the historic building can have an adaptive re-use that is compatible with the surrounding neighborhood of single-family homes. “Perhaps that day will come sometime,” he said.
LA Times (1994): Masons Forced to put Scottish Rite Temple up for Sale