- Associated Press - Wednesday, December 10, 2014

GREAT FALLS, Mont. (AP) - For a century, the Masonic Temple has been a Great Falls icon, dating back to the days when people questioned why the fraternal organization would build so far out of town.

From the stained glass window on Central Avenue to the most secret rooms on the top stories, the history of the Masons locally and internationally is incorporated into the building.

Roger Cathel, a temple trustee, said the building is iconic for Masons.

“It gives you a deeper sense of purpose and of history,” he said. “How many like-minded men have come through these doors?”

The craftsmanship of the building, finished in 1917, is remarkable, said Alan Frohberg, a temple trustee.

“I love the history. This wood was not mass produced. They handmade this,” Frohberg said. “These craftsmen gave their time and effort.”

Architects Johannes Van Teylingen and Alex Mowbray invoked Tudor England architecture with the dramatic three-story central tower housing the staircase and elevator. The building’s bracketed balconies, multicolored brick, stone and terra cotta aimed for a Spanish style, associated with recreation, the Great Falls Tribune reported (https://tinyurl.com/kvaqhjb).

At the temple’s dedication in 1914, more than 200 Masons lined the streets for a procession to the building site.

Into a time capsule went a list of officers and members, the roster of the Great Falls public schools, a copy of the 1912 lodge proceedings, a copy of the 1912 Masonic Code, a Bible, a June 6, 1914, copy of the Great Falls Daily Leader, a June 7, 1914, copy of the Great Falls Daily Tribune and coins issued in 1913.

After a short ride in one of Montana’s oldest elevators, one arrives at the top floor of the Masonic Temple.

Outside the lodge room, cigar holders and coat hooks speak to generations of men gathered to converse before meetings. Today, no smoking is allowed. Recently the Masons have added display cases highlighting local Mason history.

The lodge room has 16-foot ceilings hand painted in 1920 with Masonic symbols.

“As old as our fraternity is, it was not common that people were literate” in the early years, so moral lessons incorporated symbols as a teaching tool, Frohberg said.

A balcony looks over the room for overflow seating and an organ.

The chairs, some elaborate, and benches circle the room, with an altar in the middle. A Bible is open on top. The building is oriented east-west, and the worshipful grandmaster sits on the eastern side of the room.

“We have a specific way of doing everything, step by step,” Frohberg said.

Another room is stuffed with memorabilia dating back to the 1800s, among them Knights Templar uniforms made for men of a different era with books and props. Some of the rituals have been lost to time.

“We don’t even know what some of these things are for,” Frohberg said.

On Saturday mornings, Masons offer an open coffee where men interested in joining or people with questions are invited to visit.

“One of the great myths is you have to be asked. A man has to come to our organization by his own free will and accord,” and Masons don’t market their group, Frohberg said. “The idea is good men gather together. We congregate around food, and we eat a lot.

“You just have to believe in a supreme being. We don’t talk religion or politics. It’s just too divisive,” he said.


Information from: Great Falls Tribune, https://www.greatfallstribune.com

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