Asheville Masonic Temple opens for events

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.

Open, sesame: The Masonic Temple has opened up its 270-seat auditorium for public concerts, dramatic performances and lectures. Photos by Aiyanna Sezak-Blatt

The Land of Sky Symphonic Band performed there on Thursday, May 20. 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 five-year Mason with the Asheville Temple, last week gave Xpress 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.

Lambe noted that the temple historically was more involved in supporting the greater Asheville community: During the Spanish Influenza epidemic in 1918, the building 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.

Moses painted this: One of the hand-painted sets at the temple illustrates an Egyptian court scene, created by a Chicago artist named Moses in 1951.

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.

In addition to the auditorium, the temple also has a large meeting room, library, study rooms and a dining hall.
To schedule a show or event in the auditorium, contact Lambe at ronlambe@charter.net or 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.

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