The Scranton Cultural Center – Masonic Temple (formerly the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral) is a theater and cultural center in Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Cultural Center’s mission statement is “to rejuvenate a national architectural structure as a regional center for arts, education and community activities appealing to all ages.” The Cultural Center hosts off Broadway performances, music and stand-up comedy performances and special events including weddings and proms. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Architect Raymond Hood designed the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral. He also has is known for his work with The Tribune Tower in Chicago, Ocean Forest Country Club in Myrtle Beach S.C., The New York Daily News Building, American Radiator Building, McGraw-Hill Building, and most notably Rockefeller Center, all in New York City. Raymond Hood died in 1934, just four years after the completion of this project.
The Masonic Temple is a combination of Gothic Revival architecture and Romanesque Revival—Richardsonian Romanesque with contemporary Art Deco influences. Construction began in 1927 and was completed in 1930. The temple was designed with a dual nature; it was built to house the Scottish Rite Cathedral and a Masonic lodge. The design of the building is a tribute to masonry.
The Masonic Temple houses: The Harry and Jeannette Weinberg Theater which seats 1,866 for concerts, lectures, national Broadway tours, dance and other entertainment; the Governor Robert P. Casey Library; the Raymond Hood Room (renovated from the original bowling alley); a Junior Ballroom, utilized both as event space and for the Children’s and Performing Arts Academy summer and after school programs; a Grand Ballroom which can hold 2,400 for standing room performances and is host to elegant weddings, community fundraisers and galas, it was designed to seat 1,000 for dinner and was the largest ballroom in the region at the time; a “Ladies Parlor” overlooking the Grand Ballroom; Shopland Hall (originally Norman Hall), a 500 seat theater and lodge hall located on the 4th floor, Craftsmen Hall (originally the gaming room) on the 3rd Floor as well as Snyder and Gazda Hall (originally Tuscan and Flemish Halls – named for their decor) which serve as the primary Lodge rooms for the Masonic Fraternity. Both the Weinberg Theater and Shopland Hall are equipped with Austin Organs, numbers 1713 and 1712 respectively. Most of the facility is open for public usage and rental through the year. Visitors to Scranton can visit the Temple and take a tour that highlights the architecture of the building as well as its present day uses.
Construction of the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral was begun in 1927. The building took three years to finish. The Temple was inaugurated on January 2, 1930 when the first meeting was held in the building, it was formally dedicated in May of 1930. The rectangular plan building is clad in coursed ashlars of Indiana limestone supported by the structural steel framework. At approximately 180,000 square feet (17,000 m2), the building houses two theaters, meeting rooms, a grand ballroom, as well as numerous other rooms and areas. There are ten levels of the building, only five of which can be accessed by elevator. The remaining five levels include a storage and dressing room floor, penthouse for elevator equipment and storage, a small light room in the northwest corner of the main core, and a two-level sub-basement sixty feet below the basement floor.
Symbols of Masonry can be found throughout the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral, although it may not be apparent to those unfamiliar with the Craft. Shopland Hall, the small theater on the fourth floor, contains many Masonic symbols. An image of the Crusade is depicted above the stage, as well as shield motifs. These are important symbols to the Masonic Fraternity. Two-headed eagles are depicted on the ceiling of the theater. Frederick of Prussia introduced the symbol of the two headed eagle when the Scottish Rite was in its formative stages. The Robert P. Casey Library features the quintessential symbol of the Freemasons, a shovel, a pick, and a crowbar, in a glass case. Not only are these three items symbols of Masonry, but they were also used in the ceremonial groundbreaking and laying of the cornerstone during the construction of the Masonic Temple. Also in the Casey Library is a grandfather clock that features many Masonic Symbols carved into the wood, including the shovel, pick, and crowbar motif, as well as the symbol of the square and the compass with the letter “G” in the center.
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