Scottish Rite Masonic Temple | Los Angeles Conservancy
Photo by Larry Underhill

Scottish Rite Masonic Temple

The monumental Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire, completed in 1961, was designed by artist, designer, and educator Millard Sheets. Sheets served as the head of Scripps College’s art department and as the director of the Otis Art Institute on Wilshire.

Sheets is perhaps best known for the mosaics that adorn Home Savings and Loan Buildings throughout the west; many don’t realize that he also designed Scottish Rite Temples in both Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Like many buildings for Masonic orders, the imposing Scottish Rite Temple on Wilshire appears to be nearly windowless, creating an aura of secrecy.

The exterior of the temple is made of marble and travertine that Sheets personally selected from an Italian quarry near Rome. The Scottish Rite is a degree of the Freemasons; biblical and historical quotations over the entrance reflect the Masonic values of liberty, equality, fraternity, and devotion.

The history of the Masons is depicted on fourteen-foot high travertine figures designed by sculptors Albert Stewart and John Edward Svenson. A mosaic by Sheets on the exterior depicts the history of temple building.

The 100,000-square-foot, steel-framed building contained an auditorium with space for 2,100 guests, classrooms, club meeting rooms, and a library. As membership in the order declined, the building sat empty for many years. Zoning codes blocked the Masons from using the temple and its giant auditorium for anything but nonprofit community events.

The Masons vacated the space in 1994 after years of declining membership. In 2002, a Masonic heritage museum was placed on the second floor, but legal battles over its use and compliance with neighborhood zoning codes limited its public use.

The Maurice and Paul Marciano Art Foundation bought the former temple in July 2013, repurposing it and reopening it in 2017 as a contemporary art space that pays homage to the building’s past. 

Photo by Michael Locke

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