Miami Scottish Rite Masonic Temple
When the famous presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan laid the cornerstone in 1922 for Miami’s Masonic Temple, he could never have suspected that on June 8th, 2014, the mystical building would finally be opened to the public. Ninety-two years was a long time to wait, but the treasure that was hidden inside for so long was even more spectacular than any of the patrons attending an afternoon concert of Mozart’s symphonies, conciertos, and Masonic reveries could have ever expected. Below is a painting I created in 1997, showing the structure as it might have looked at its dedication in 1924.
Today the Temple stands as the oldest surviving public building in Miami-Dade County, and the fact that it is finally being opened to non-Freemasons is a gift to all who appreciate beautiful architecture and interior design.
The interior auditorium is a celebration of the Egyptian style made popular by the discovery of King Tut’s tomb just two years before. Today, the ornamentation is erroneously called “Art Deco”, but the modern design movement in Paris was still three yesrs off when construction began. The four massive columns on the front portico are more reminiscent of the Temple at Karnak than anything Greek or Roman. The use of squares, circles, and triangles was aimed to represent hieroglyphics more than Art Deco geometry.
The moulded masonry interior detail was similar to designs made popular by Louis Sullivan and Frank Lloyd Wright in Chicago in the late 19th century.
A vintage Skinner-Aolian organ was built into the east wall. and that instrument is in the process of being completely reconditioned so that the lofty sounds that once filled this bejewelled hall will once again entertain pipe organ enthusiast.
The large stage has the most luxurious velvet curtain, along with a historic collection of hand painted backdrops that would be the envy of theaters anywhere.
The hand carved and hand painted chandeleer is suspended from the ziggarat ceiling, giving the entire space a magical feel.
For this concert the orchestra was centered in the lower floor, while the audience was seated facing the conductor, and above in a lower and upper balcony, and on the sides in the mezzanine. The acoustics were wonderful, and a tenor solo was easily heard throughout the hall with no amplification.