Saturday, November 17, 2012

# 35 ~ The Masonic Temple, Then and Now



On November 17, 1917, the cornerstone of the new Masonic Temple, at the north west corner of Yonge Street and Davenport Road, was laid. Overseeing the ceremony was the Grand Master of the local lodge. The masons had a long tradition dating back to the earliest foundations of the old Town of York, with masonic meetings taking place in a warehouse at the foot of Church Street, as early as the 1790s.

THEN : The Masonic Temple in 1919, shortly after it opened.  Oh, how the streets have changed!

This new Masonic Temple was designed by the architect William Sparling, and constructed at a cost of $197,000. Construction of the six-storey building was swift, with enough of the new building apparently complete that the first lodge meeting could be held there on New Year's Day, 1918.

THEN : The local Grand Master helps put the finishing touches on the Masonic Temple's cornerstone.

The Masons held sway within their temple for decades, but over the past forty years and more, the building has developed more of a reputation for local entertainment. From the late 1960s, it served as a venue for live music. When Led Zeppelin made their first ever live appearance in Toronto, in early 1969, they played at the Masonic Temple building. The space was later rented as a rehearsal space by the Rolling Stones, who were known for their penchant for “warming up” for upcoming tours in Toronto.

In recent decades, the Masonic Temple has been known as a home for broadcasting. Taken over by CTV, the “Open Mike with Mike Bullard Show” was broadcast from the Masonic Lodge, and from 2006, the building has served as the broadcasting home for MTV Canada.

NOW : The Masonic Lodge in its incarnation as MTV Headquarters.  With MTV moving out, the fate of the building seems uncertain.
Just a few weeks ago, earlier this month, it was announced that MTV would move to Queen Street West, calling the fate of the Masonic Temple into question. It seems certain that the building will change hands, and the Masonic Lodge may even suffer that seemingly inevitable and ignominious fate – that is, conversion into a condominium tower – but it's not the first time the Masonic Temple has been at risk. When developers threatened in 1997, a designation under the Ontario Heritage Act saved the building. It seems less certain that the Masonic Lodge can be salvaged a second time.

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I found an in depth article on the history of the Masonic Temple and the Masonry rite in Toronto here.

A timely article appeared in today's National Post.  You can read it here.

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THEN : This wonderful piece of Toronto ephemera is a ticket to the Masonic Ball, held at Saint Lawrence Hall on the evening of January 19th, 1859.

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