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:
Portraits of former Masonic Masters line the halls:
To schedule a show or event in the Temple auditorium, contact Ron Lambe at email@example.com or call 252-3924.