The History of Central Masonic Temple, Edmonton, Alberta


The History of Central Masonic Temple, Edmonton, Alberta

Introduction

With assistance from Mrs. Honey at the City of Edmonton Archives,
a small payment to the Provincial Land Titles Office, and a few
exciting sessions with John Sanders, we all will, very shortly,
be able to speak with great authority on the history of this, our
Masonic Temple.

The Planning

During the early period of the 1900's, the Edmonton Masonic
Lodges were housed in a building on 102 Street, (the replica of
which now stands in Fort Edmonton Park). The hierarchy long had
felt the need for a Masonic Temple, that would be centrally
located and of sufficient size and stature to, not only house all
Northern Alberta Masons, but primarily to allow the craft to
flourish in future years.

To this end, there appeared in the Edmonton Bulletin on September
9, 1910, a small ad stating that subscriptions for shares in the
Edmonton Masonic Temple Association Limited, was now open at
their office, 114 Jasper Avenue W. It would appear that the share
selling game was not too brisk, as the next step we noted was the
purchase of land by the Association November 3, 1929, some 19
years later. By the way, the share price was and still is $10.00
and you've still got time to buy in.

The Land

The land upon which the Temple stands is legally known as the
Westerly 75 ft. of Lots 87, 88 and 89, Block 3, Plan B of the
Hudson Bay Reserve. It is 150 feet in depth.

The first owner of the three lots was G. Hutton, who purchased
the land in 1895 and the title listed the  value at $3037.73. The
land then passed to La Banque Jacques Cartier in 1897 for unknown
reason and then on to various members of the Braithwaite family
from 1903 until 1929. Dr. E.H. Braithwaite, who inherited the
land from his mother in 1914 led a rather colorful life. He
served in the N.W.M.P. as a medic from 1890 until 1931.
Incidentally, he was a witness at the hanging of Louis Riel (just
a little trivia).

While employed at the N.W.M.P., Dr. Braithwaite served as
Edmonton's first Coroner and also as the Provincial Coroner. He
was a member of Edmonton Lodge #7, and was acting Deputy Grand
Master for the Grand Lodge of Alberta. He was involved in Masonry
for 60 years and died in 1949 at the age of 87.

The family home was on the present site of Foster and McGarvey
Funeral Home and, if you were to look out the north-east window
on the top floor of the Temple, you will see the roof of the
original home still visible.

Discovered during research, the number of Writs, Caveats, etc.
that showed up on the Titles may be an indication of troubled
times in the Twenties- and not too much change from today. 

Anyway, back to business. In 1929, with the value of the land now
at $12,500.00, the Association purchased 75 ft. from Dr.
Braithwaite. It has been suggested that he was more than fair in
his asking price. The remainder of the land was then purchased 
from Dr. Braithwaite by Foster and McGarvey in 1934, the value
then being $17,500.00. From $3,037.73 to $35,000.00 in 35 years!

The Construction

William Blakey, a well-known Architect, a member of Ivanhoe Lodge
and a Temple sharehoider, was selected to design a structure
worthy of the craft. R.W.Ritchie, who was a member of Empire
Lodge #63 and also a Temple shareholder was selected as the
General Contractor.

The Subcontractors were now in place and included firms such as
Lockerbie & Hole, Hillas Electric, Empire Marble, Marlboro Cement
and Thomas Dyke. Needless to say, there was the odd Mason
involved in this group.

The sod-turning ceremony was held July 12, 1930 with Dr.
Braitwaite doing the spadework. The photographs that
are here in the Temple indicate it was very well attended. Have
not been able to locate any media accounting, but it would appear
that the construction of the $200,000.00 structure was about to
begin.

The four storey structure is constructed of steel and concrete
and has a red brick facing. The stonework and cement follows the
Gothic design and the lines of piers, buttress and tower gives
the structure a medieval appearance.

The Masonic emblems have been embedded in the facade and there
are six canopied recesses in the exterior upper edge that were
earmarked to hold statues. Of whom, we have no knowledge.

The building has the two entrances, the one on the right for
public access to the auditorium, and the doorway on the left for
"The Special Prerogative of the Craft." The inside door plates
and handles are struck with the Masonic emblems.

On November 1, 1930, and prior to the completion of the Temple, a
ceremony to commemorate the laying of the cornerstone was held.
At that time, coins of the day, copies of the Edmonton Journal
and a list of Masonic memorabilia was laid in an opening beneath
the stone, prior to it being levelled by D. McIntosh, acting Sr.
Gr. Warden. Some of the many dignitaries in attendance that day
included the Provincial Premier, J. E. Brownlee, the Lt. Governor
Dr. Egbert, Acting Mayor J. Collisson and many well known Masons
in the persons of Dr. S.N. Sneddon, Gr. Mst. for Alberta, (whose
name is engraved on the cornerstone); J. Martland, Jr.Gr. Warden;
Rev. R.H. Lyttle, Gr. Chaplain and S.T. Hubbard, President of the
Temple Association. The photos of this occasion are also in the
Temple.

You may be interested in some rituals involved in the ceremony.
Firstly, Wine is poured on the stone as a sign of Cheer (or,
Cheers, as the British say), then Corn is sprinkled on the stone
as a sign of Plenty, and, finally, Oil is sprinkled on the stone
as a sign of Brotherhood. (This maybe why the expressions -
getting corned, or getting oiled may relate to the pouring of
wine) 

We now move into the Temple for a look at some of its central
features and purpose.

The auditorium, located on the first floor, was installed, not
only to handle Masonic work, but also to generate some revenue
for the upkeep of the Temple, by renting it out for private
functions. To protect the lovely oak floors, canvas was laid out
during public meetings or when the room was not in use. (Would
imagine it would be tough to dance on).

The original newspaper release on this room states that the light
fixtures were "12 delicately-wrought brass electroliers of
refined and tasteful pattern".

The report also stated that the room would seat 500 - 600 and an
equal amount in the balcony. Our R.W. Br. Don Maskell thought
that would be possible in the Hungry 30's as everyone was pretty
thin. 

In actuality, the room will hold 150 and the balcony 50.

Soundproofing of the Temple took priority and it may be noted
that, while a jackhammer was operating in the auditorium, no
sounds could be heard in the lodge rooms on the third floor.

The remainder of the first floor has been taken up with offices
and foyer.

Moving on up the very handsome oak and wrought iron staircase,
you would find a library (since replaced by a small lodge room)
and offices and meeting rooms. 

Carrying on up the staircase to the third floor, you come upon
the primary function of the Temple and that is the two Masonic
Lodge rooms. The larger of the two (on the north side) has four
stained glass windows that run along the south wall. They
illustrate the first three degrees of Masonry, as well as the
emblems of the Knights - Templar and Scottish Rite.

The smaller Lodge room (on south side) has three stained glass
windows and illustrate the symbols and virtues of the first three
degrees of Masonry. 

It was planned to have plpe organs installed in each of the
rooms, but this did not come about. Too bad, really, as W. Br.
Bill Hite would have played up a storm.

The very fine oak panelling, the balconies and the fine woodwork
involved in the construction of the officers chairs, is self
evident and need not be enlarged uopn.

Continuing up the stairway to the top floor, you will 
find a meeting room and a cubby hole for the storage of Masonic
regalia.

If you were to take the elevator down to the basement area, here
you'll find the gourmet section of the Temple containing a large
kitchen area, and a banquet hall seating 150 people. The decor
goes without saying. The piece'd resistance would be the lounge
room that, at one titne, was very dry indeed, but cooler heads
prevailed and wet became the byword.

The entire structure contained some 25,500 sq.ft. of usable floor
space and, if the figures indicated were correct, was built for
less than $10.00/per sq. ft., excluding the land.

It was one of the finest buildings erected during this period
and, although it remains unprotected by Historic Resource
Designation, it would probably qualify, if such a request was
made.

Bro. Bud Cameron