The Pasadena Masonic Temple stands today as a beacon where the greatness of Masonry may be found. Completed in 1927, it holds an envious position for it was dedicated to the hope that the future may learn from the past. It was built with the labor of Masonic love and pride, ornate and spacious, with grandeur and yet simplicity. With its marble and hardwood floors, its arched ceilings, its beautiful lines of Roman Gothic architecture, it cannot be equaled. The Ballroom with its high ceiling, impressive in size, alive with grace and warm charm will combined in elegant style, stands waiting for all occasions.
The second floor houses two lodge rooms and the Grand Hall decorated with symbolic emblems.
The first meeting of Masons in Pasadena, that was to become Pasadena Lodge No. 272 was when a few Pasadena residents gathered on February 20, 1883. A meeting in the library hall followed in October, at which time the newly elected officials decided upon a more permanent meeting place in Williams Hall on the northwest corner of Colorado Boulevard and Fair Oaks Avenue. Old timers recall a “fanciful front” much like the facade of their present lodge, erected on the upper story of the Colorado Boulevard Building by architect H. Ridgway, who was Master of the lodge in 1886. The Lodge continued to prosper under the leadership of Worshipful Ridgway. By 1917 it encompassed three separate lodges and fourteen affiliated bodies.
Today, the Pasadena Masonic Temple is a monumental two-story rectangular building completed in 1927 that was designed by architects Cyril Bennett and Fitch Haskell in the style of Beaux-Arts Classicism. The building is situated on a corner lot and therefore has two prominent facades. Appropriately designed to resemble a Greek Temple, the concrete and stucco building utilizes the basic Greek design component of base, column and capital. Although all four facades reflect the tripartite concept, the west facade is the most architecturally detailed.
The base of the west, and only formal entry, is situated on a podium. The formal entry is reached by a cast stone stairway from Euclid Avenue. The focal point of the first story is the three Italian-Renaissance-style portals topped by heavy festooned architraves which are supported by modified Corinthian pilasters and surrounded by rusticated stone. The entrance portals are flanked by decorative cast iron lamp posts located at each end of the raised porch. Recessed inside each of the three portals are heavy double oak doors with a coffered-panel design and decorative carving. The cornerstone from the first Masonic Temple at North Fair Oaks Avenue, relaid on October 2, 1977, is displayed on the property’s southwest corner.
Projecting slightly above the first story is the second story colonnaded portico comprised of ten fluted Ionic columns. These support a frieze adorned with the words “Masonic Temple”. Behind the colonnade is a blank wall decorated only with a narrow belt of rosettes. Centered at the top of the wall is the Mason’s fraternal symbol. The circular emblem, coupled with the Classical architectural elements found in this building, reflect the ritualistic nature of the Masonic order.
A cornice adorned with dentils and an egg and dart motif appears above the frieze. The cornice wraps around the building as does the unadorned entablature, which symbolizing the capital of the tripartite design scheme, forms the attic story and caps the building.
Sash type windows are symmetrically placed on the first floor of the northern and southern facades. A cast stone string course wraps around the building, dividing the two stories and provides one the several bold horizontal lines that dominate this structure. Through the contrast of simplicity of line and formal Renaissance styling, each elevation enhances and symbolizes the tradition of Masonic Brotherhood. As the only example of Beaux-Arts style architecture in Pasadena, no other building in Pasadena offers such a striking combination of formal and informal architecture.
The interior of the building utilizes both marble and an abundance of decorative woodwork. A vaulted ceiling distinguishes the entry hall, which leads to the building’s main feature, a 300 seat auditorium/dining room set to the rear of the building. An adjacent room overlooks the auditorium and is a special feature of the structure.
The Temple is a rare example of the Beaux-Arts style in Pasadena, which was popular in Southern California after the 1915 Expositions in San Francisco and San Diego. Although it departs from the California-Mediterranean theme of the nearby Pasadena Civic Center, the Masonic Temple harmonizes well with the scale and stature of the civic buildings that were once so closely tied to Euclid Avenue. The Masonic Temple shares the majestic beauty and dignity of the nearby Civic Auditorium, Cyril Bennett’s other notable design in Pasadena.
Cyril Bennett was one of the most prominent and successful architects of Southern California. He designed a large percentage of structures in the City of Pasadena. Bennett began his architectural training with Charles and Henry Greene, prominent architects in the Craftsman style. Later Bennett became associated with Sylvanus B. Marston, from whom he was likely to have gained an appreciation for Mediterranean style architecture. Between 1914 and 1923, Bennett practiced on his own and erected many substantial business blocks, public buildings and fine residences in the city. In 1923, he became connected with Fitch Haskell and under the firm name of Bennett and Haskell, they drew up plans for the First Trust Building, Holliston Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, the Junipero Serra School and the Raymond Theater.
The building has survived intact with few alterations during its seventy year history. In recent years, the building has attained an increased visibility and importance with recent neighborhood developments. It is closely linked, in a conceptual sense, with the nearby Civic Auditorium. The Temple anchors this street of small residential buildings, apartment buildings and commercial structures and contributes to the integrity and high quality design of the nearby Civic Center Historical District. It is a fine, intact, example of tasteful, dignified and not too formal design. These factors combine to make the Masonic Temple worthy of its nomination to the National Register of Historic Places.
From the outside like a vision in fantasy, the great pillars rise and, at night with lights aglow, it stands as a treasured historic monument to Freemasonry, grand and glorious. A landmark of a colorful period of both American and Masonic history. Sometimes described as the last dinosaur, the palace, the mansion, it is, to every brother of our Lodge, just that, “Our Lodge.” For we all know that it would be impossible to reconstruct, thus we are all dedicated to preserving our stately Masonic Temple.