MASONIC TEMPLE SCOTTISH RITE CATHEDRAL ASSOCIATION
Masonic Temple Scottish Rite Cathedral Association History
The MTSRCA was incorporated in 1906 as the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral Association of Scranton. At about the same time, the organization purchased the former Scranton Armory located in the 200 block of Adams Avenue and made that the official Masonic Temple where both Blue Lodge, Scottish and York Rite activities were held.
Having quickly outgrown the space, a committee was formed to begin the process of having a new structure designed and built to house the burgeoning needs of the masonic bodies. The University of Pennsylvania School of Architecture was contracted to conduct an architectural competition for the MTSRCA and based on a set of guidelines developed by the MTSRCA committee. Rooms to be included were listed by name and function along with suggested minimum square footage. No information was supplied as to how the structure was to be designed in either size, stories or architectural style.
The University of Pennsylvania conducted a national competition and of the six finalists, recommended tat the MTSRCA select Raymond Hood as his design was the only one to incorporate the stage in a manner that allowed it to be utilized from both the fixed seat theater side and the open ballroom side. The MTSRCA unanimously approved the selection and Hood was hired. In the following months a three hundred page scope of work was presented by Hood that described in detail the rooms, finishes and furnishings as well as general construction guidelines for the winning contractor to follow.
At around the same time negotiations were occurring to secure land to build the new temple on. Eventually two parcels in the 400 block of N. Washington Avenue were secured at a reported cost of around $10,000. In March of 1927, demolition began on these homes and construction immediately followed.
Interestingly enough, the MTSRCA decided to sell its building in 1926 - perhaps as a way to raise quick capital for the upcoming land acquisition - so they were without a permanent home from 1926 through 1930 when the current temple opened. In those intervening years, it appears that the MTSRCA and it's various sub-committees met in the board rooms of various banks and businesses while the lodges and other bodies were scattered around other Scranton buildings. Masonic use of the temple began in early January of 1930 while finishing touches were being done. The first public use occurred in May of 1930 for a banquet in the Grand Ballroom for around 1000. The building has remained in continuous use by both the public and Masonic bodies ever since making it the longest continually running theater of its size in much of Pennsylvania.
The initial budget for the new temple was placed at $500,000. that number was woefully short as it would quickly become apparent to the committee and a massive public fundraising campaign was launched. Those donor records still exist in storage at the temple. There are varying estimates of between $1,700,000 and $2,300,000 as the final number to build and furnish the temple. In either case, the stock market crash and ensuing depression of the 1930's severely impacted the ability to collect pledges and forced the MTSRCA to refinance the mortgage several times finally being able to pay it off in the 1970's. It is also worth noting that the finished structure was not as hoped for. Due to escalating costs, the MTSRCA was forced to cancel plans for a carillon / chime bell system for the tower, electric refrigeration for all of the kitchens (ice boxes were installed instead), several lighting positions in the theater, and air conditioning.
In the 1980's following continued decline of economic resources, the building was on the verge of being sold at auction in order to pay off the tax debt. Through the actions of several key members of the MTSRCA and civic leaders, the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple was born. To this day the MTSRCA and the SCC board of directors work hand in hand to preserve and operate this magnificent structure.