Inside Asheville’s Masonic Temple

For many, the Masonic Temple at 80 Broadway in downtown Asheville is intriguing and mysterious, in part because the temple’s doors have been closed to the general public for years. That’s changed. In an effort to reconnect with Asheville’s artistic community, and to help raise money for building renovations, the temple will be hosting public events and concerts in a 270-seat auditorium/theatre within the building.

The Land of Sky Symphonic Band will perform there tonight, May 20, at 7:30 p.m. ($10 suggested donation). On June 5, singer/songwriter and folk musician Dave Wendelin and an ensemble of guest musicians take the stage at 8 p.m. (by donation, with partial proceeds benefiting temple restorations). The auditorium may even host the Montford Park Players during their winter season.

Ron Lambe, events committee chair and a 5-year Mason with the Asheville Temple, led an informal tour of the historic building, which was designed by Mason and renowned architect Richard Sharp Smith in 1913. The temple opened in 1915 and became headquarters for various branches of the Masonic order. During the tour, Lambe noted that the temple, historically, was more involved in supporting the greater Asheville community: During the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918 the temple functioned as a hospital and emergency ward, and in the 1950s the building was designated as a public bomb shelter. In recent years, however, the stately building has been closed for all public use.

Here are a few photographs of the temple’s auditorium, meeting/ceremony room, library, game room and various rooms used for reading and studying.

Seating 270 people, the auditorium is located on the third floor of the building, with a horseshoe-shaped balcony overlooking the stage from the fourth floor. This section of the Temple was occupied by the Scottish Rite, and the auditorium was once referred to as the Scottish Rite Cathedral. Painted landscapes and backdrops are stacked in the eaves of the cathedral, hung in the fly loft above the stage. These elaborate paintings, which are being stored for future use, were once used for Masonic lessons, Lambe says, where biblical stories and teachings were dramatically enacted for educational purposes.

The hanging backdrops are being stored for the Scottish Rite:

One of the hand-painted sets at the temple illustrates an Egyptian court scene. The paintings were created by an artist from Chicago named Moses, who painted them in 1951.

Views from the fourth-floor balcony:

The Masonic Alter:

The Masonic Library:

View from the third-floor balcony:

The study:

Portraits of former Masonic Masters line the halls:

To schedule a show or event in the Temple auditorium, contact Ron Lambe at ronlambe@charter.net or call 252-3924.

 

 

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About Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt
Aiyanna grew up on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. She was educated at The Cambridge School of Weston, Sarah Lawrence College, and Oxford University. Aiyanna lives in Asheville, North Carolina where she proudly works for Mountain Xpress, the city’s independent local newspaper.

4 thoughts on “Inside Asheville’s Masonic Temple

  1. Sue S.

    My husband’s great great grandfather was Thomas Gibbs Moses, the artist who painted these drops. We are so amazed that the temple has been opened! Is there any possibility that we could get into contact with someone in order to make arrangements to view Moses’ work? We live in Michigan so chances are, a trip in summer is the soonest we could drive down. Still, just to see his work other than the few the family still has .. is wonderful.

  2. Metra Reid

    After finding papers connecting two family members to the Scottish Rite, an interest was sparked in The Masons. I’m sorry that my husband and I didn’t have enough time in Asheville this weekend to perhaps work out a tour of the Masonic Temple. How fascinating to think of the men who were Masons and the fathers of our country!
    Sincerely,
    Metra Reid

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