The Detroit Masonic Temple

by Hannah Heilman

The Exterior of the Masonic Temple, Detroit 1937.  Photo Credit:  The Detroit News archives.
The Exterior of the Masonic Temple, Detroit 1937. Photo Credit: The Detroit News archives.

Residing at 500 Temple Street in Detroit, Michigan is the Detroit Masonic Temple. The Detroit Masonic Temple is just one of the many wondrous historical landmarks in Michigan. Originally built to host masonic organizations, this building is now used for several other events as well.

THE ARCHITECTURE

Designed by George D. Mason, this structure had neo-gothic architectural style, a gothic revival style of architecture, which was extremely popular during the time. The construction began in 1920 and had been completely finished by 1926. The building possesses several amenities, including, “three theaters (one was never completed, but is sometimes used by movie-production crews), a Shrine building, the Chapel, eight lodge rooms, a 17,500 square foot drill hall, two ballrooms, office space, a cafeteria, dining rooms, a barber shop, 16 bowling lanes–1037 rooms in total–in addition to a powerhouse that generated all electricity for the complex” (1) – making this the largest Masonic Temple in the world.

A look at the seating in one of the theaters in the Masonic Temple, Detroit, MI, photograph by Chris and Michelle Gerard.
A look at the seating in one of the theaters in the Masonic Temple, Detroit, MI, photograph by Chris and Michelle Gerard.

THE HISTORY

In the year 1980, the Detroit Masonic Temple (DMT) was admitted onto the National Register of Historic Places as a sub – part of the Cass Park Historic District. The Ilitch family, whom own the Little Caesars fast-food pizza corporation and franchise as well as The Red Wings and the Detroit Tigers, also has ownership of the Olympia Entertainment Management company, which had a contract with the Detroit Masonic Temple from 2007-2010, at which point they came to the conclusion there was just too much competition for venue spaces in Detroit.

JACK WHITE’S CONTRIBUTION

In the Spring of 2013, the Detroit Masonic Temple had claimed foreclosure, owing over $150,000 in back taxes to Wayne County. The debt was almost immediately paid off in full, within about a month. It was later revealed that rock legend and Detroit native Jack White, of The White Stripes, almost single-handedly paid off this debt – he had contributed over $140,000 to the cause. His reasoning for this was the fact that his mother had once been an usher at the Detroit Masonic Temple, and he wanted to help the organization in it’s time of need just as it had helped him and his mother when she had been struggling to find work.

HISTORICAL SIGNIFICANCE

With the Detroit Masonic Temple’s outstanding presence in the economy of Detroit, it has done nothing but benefit the city, and furthermore the state of Michigan, despite it’s foreclosure scare in 2013. The venue has pretty steadily been hosting large events such as masquerades and concerts, and is typically a stop on any tourist’s guide of Detroit landmarks. The outer beauty combined with the magnificent art on the inside has brought in millions of spectators, as well as the several amenities included on the inside. Not to mention the movies and shows which also occasionally film in the Masonic Temple. Movies such as “Hostel III” and Whitney Houston’s, “Sparkle,” were at least partially filmed in the Detroit Masonic Themple.

Statues outside of the Mason Temple (made by Leo Friedlander, famous American sculptor who taught sculpting in Rome and at NYU), Detroit, Michigan, photograph by Chris and Michelle Gerard.
Statues outside of the Mason Temple (made by Leo Friedlander, famous American sculptor who taught sculpting in Rome and at New York University), Detroit, Michigan, photograph by Chris and Michelle Gerard.

NOTES:

1 “About the Masonic Temple.” Themasonic.com. Accessed November 29, 2016. http://www.themasonic.com/aboutus.php.