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A look back at Salt Lake's Masonic Temple 90 years later
May 11, 2017

SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Masons Grand Lodge opened up its temples for an open house Saturday, giving curious minds the opportunity to explore the group’s meeting areas.

Thousands showed up for the event — an event that first began in 2015 — and toured through the lavish rooms located in Salt Lake City, as well as other temples across the state.

For those visiting the Salt Lake Masonic Temple, it was a chance to tour a building that has been a stunning fixture at 650 E. South Temple for 90 years — and ask Freemasons questions about anything regarding the group or the building.

Freemasons have been in Utah for 145 years. In speaking with KUED in April, Utah’s Grand Master Robert M. Wolfarth said Utah has about 2,000 members and 28 Freemason lodges scattered throughout the state. The Salt Lake Chapter is the largest of those lodges.

The Salt Lake Masonic Temple was dedicated on Nov. 20, 1927. In an article that was published in the Deseret News the following day, the reporter marveled at the design.

“In its physical aspect alone, the new temple is a worthy and admirable addition to the other pretentious structures of this city and state. It is ornamental as well as substantial and commodious,” the reporter stated of the building. “It is a distinct credit to its builders and its sponsors, and it will doubtless stand for many years as one of the landmarks in this community.”

In notes about the building, architect Carl W. Scott wrote that he toured other Masonic structures across the country to see what other buildings looked like. The trip, he wrote, likely saved $150,000 in building costs because he was able to see what should be done.


People attend the open house of the Salt Lake Masonic Temple on May 6, 2017. (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

“All sorts of such structures were inspected, some completed, some in the working-drawing stages, and some abandoned because of poor financing. Generally, the architectural designs were monumental, dignified and pleasing,” he wrote. “Some had excellent individual features; some had scarcely anything Masonic about them.”

Scott wrote that he used the numbers three, five and seven — numbers important to Masonry — in designing the building. In fact, he wrote seven “was used wherever possible.”

“Seven lengths of the Masonic 24-inch rule become 14 feet and this being a convenient measure, it was made a basis for laying out our Temple,” he wrote. "Entrance to the Temple proper is gained by ascending three, five, seven steps and nine steps. For strict adherence, three, five and seven might be more appropriate, but practical considerations demanded a greater number of steps and additional steps were added in the number nine, which also has considerable Masonic significance, being the cube of the first No. 3 and sometimes, but not always, being assigned as the number of rungs of the mythical Jacob’s ladder reaching to heaven.”

However, the most unique angle is the Egyptian architectural style — including two Sphinx statues made from Utah granite on the entrance steps and an Egyptian room inside the temple itself.


(Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)


(Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)


(Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

“Its purpose was deemed most important and was not used merely to be different,” Scott wrote, of the design.

The building’s walls were made of brick — known as Masonic temple brick and each room inside was fashioned for Masonic ritual.

Here's a look at other rooms inside the temple:


A group of people check out the Auditorium inside the Salt Lake Masonic Temple on May 6, 2017. The room, architect Carl W. Scott wrote, was intended for larger gatherings and has less seen Masonic significance than other rooms because it is the room "which the public is frequently admitted." Scott notes "the magnesium glow lights in the dome are intended to symbolize the canopy of heaven. The curtains, which can be drawn across the four arches, converting the cross-shaped room into a more compact space, are of dyed Repp, and depict the workman in the forest, quarry, and at the site constructing King Solomon's Temple."


A photo of the Colonial Lodge room inside the Salt Lake Masonic Temple taken on May 6, 2017. Architect Carl W. Scott wrote that the room is "a porch or entrance to a Colonial mansion, and as the Master wears the Master's hat, it was thought that the appearance might be that of the Master sitting outside the house, rather than within it, and thus the wearing of the hat be strictly in keeping with polite usage as well as with essential Masonic practice." (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)


A group of people tour the Gothic Room inside the Salt Lake Masonic Temple on May 6, 2017. Architect Carl W. Scott wrote the room was "designed primarily for the York Rite bodies, and is intended to serve their purpose. Practically all of the fittings appropriate for their functions were installed as directed." (Photo: Carter Williams, KSL.com)

All of which has remained as stunning as it was 90 years ago.