Miami Scottish Rite
Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction
Welcome to the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry! We are the Valley of Miami and operate under the Orient of Florida of The Ancient and Accept Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction. It is the mission of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, SJ, to improve its members and enhance the communities in which they live by teaching and emulating the principles of Brotherly Love, Tolerance, Charity, and Truth while actively embracing high social, moral, and spiritual values including fellowship, compassion, and dedication to God, family and country.
You are invited to visit us and find out what we have to offer. We are proud of our heritage. Our Temple was imagined and constructed by men of great vision and passion. Their motivation for greatness remains with our leaders and members today. We are a proud and accomplished fraternity of men.
History of the Miami Scottish Rite
Scottish Rite Masonry was first established in Miami on December 4, 1916, when Illustrious Brother Olin S. Wright, Sovereign Grand Inspector General for the State of Florida, assisted by a number of brethren from the Tampa Consistory, organized Mithra Lodge of Perfection.
From the Scottish Rite Bulletin of Louisville, Kentucky, we gather that Brother James McCants of Tampa and Brother William C. Sessions of Louisville, Kentucky worked up a Scottish Rite class in Miami, intending to get about ten candidates and have Brother Olin Wright go there and communicate the degrees with the idea of helping out the Bodies of Key West, which were only about a year old at the time and ha been badly handicapped by several unfortunate happenings. They found the task so pleasant and med with such success that they did not stop until fifty-three candidates had signed applications.
After they had secured twenty-eight, Brother Sessions went back to Plant City and talked to Brother Wright, and then went to Tampa to help the brethren there to prepare for a trip to Miami. They took along with them the paraphernalia for the degrees which they had decided to confer, as the list had grown too large to give the degrees in plain communicated form. The party was composed of Bros., O.S. Wright, James McCants, A.B. Steuart, A.S. Thornton and Ceferino Balbin of the Tampa Bodies; Charles Ketchum Secretary of the Key West Bodies and Brother Sessions.
The organization of Mithra Lodge of Perfection took place in the Knights of Pythias Hall in the Townly Building, with about fifty charter members forming the new Lodge from whom were selected and installed the following corps of officers: Venerable Master, H.R. Bridgen; Senior Warden, H.E. Overstreet; Junior Warden, C.L. Benedict; Orator, R.M. Griffin; Almoner, Julius Smith; Master of Ceremonies, D.N. Carpenter; Expert, D.C. Caddigan; Assistant Expert, F.W. Chapman; Captain of the Host, M.P. Freeman; Tyler, S.J. Galett. A charter was granted to Mithra Lodge of Perfection, Valley of Miami, on October 20, 1917.
From 1916 to 1919, Mithra Lodge of Perfection was the only Scottish Rite Body operating in Miami, conferring the Ineffable Degrees from the Fourth to the Fourteenth inclusive. Meetings were held in the Masonic Hall on what was then Thirteenth Street, but after a time the meeting place was moved to the second floor of the Seybold Building. During the First World War Scottish Rite Masons were especially active in war work, quarters being established and maintained at both Dinner Key and Curtis Field. A reading room was also maintained in the Seybold Building for the use of servicemen, with dances and other forms of entertainment furnished on Saturday nights.
On October 22, 1919, the three higher bodies of the Scottish Rite were created and chartered under the names of Acacia Chapter Knights, Rose Croix, conferring the historical and religious degrees from the Fifteenth through the Eighteenth; Utopia Council Knights Kadosh, conferring the philosophical and chivalric degrees from the Nineteenth through the Thirtieth; and Miami Consistory, conferring the Thirty-first and Thirty-second degrees. W.H. Bailey was the first Wise Master of Acacia Chapter, E.B. Christiansen the first Commander of Kadosh in the Council, and Don C. Caddigan the first Master of Kadosh in the Consistory.
From the time of their inception, the Four Coordinate bodies of Miami Consistory grew rapidly, eventually reaching a high pre-depression mark of 2,200 members. However, the collapse of the Florida real estate boom closely followed by the great national Depression, took a heavy toll in the membership, until the roster was reduced to about 700. In the years of recovery the Bodies have experienced a steady, sound growth, at one time reaching a membership of over 5,500. The brotherhood now numbers around 2,000 of the finest representative men in the Miami area.
A resolution of the Supreme Council dated December 16, 1953 recommended to the Subordinate Bodies of the Rite that they change their names wherever necessary and take the name of the city in which they are located. So, Mithra Lodge of Perfection became Miami Lodge of Perfection. The other Bodies changed their names from Acacia Chapter and Utopia Council, to read Miami instead of the original ancient names.
History of the Temple
(Note: The Miami Scottish Rite Preservation Corporation (a 501(c)(3) corporation) is tasked with the monumental task of restoring and maintaining the temple. The Preservation Corporation is made up of the members of the Valley of Miami as well as a number of interested community members.)
Since there was no regular Masonic building in Miami the Scottish Rite Bodies decided to erect a temple in which to house all of the Masonic organizations in the city. To that end a committee was appointed consisting of Julius Smith, D.C. Caddigan, and George M. Okell to purchase a site. A 75 by 240 foot lot fronting the river in Fort Dallas Park was purchased from Harry Tuttle and a building committee consisting of H.R. Pridgen, W.E. Brown, George Orr, J.B. Orr, George M. Okell, John Seybold, D.C. Caddigan and James Donn, was appointed. But, before any action was taken, the land was swapped with the City of Miami for the site at Third Street and N.W. North River Drive, where the present building was erected.
On July 21, 1922, the contract for the building of the Scottish Rite Masonic Center was awarded to John B. Orr, pioneer contractor and builder, who constructed the building without profit to himself. Kiehael and Elliot, an architectural firm of Pittsburgh and Miami designed the building. The Venerable Master, Fred W. DeLaneym 32° KCCH laid the cornerstone with appropriate ceremonies on October 6, 1922. By September, 1923 the new temple was completed enough to occupy. The new Masonic Center was finished and formally dedicated on March 12 1924 with Illustrious John W. Cowles, 33° , Sovereign Grand Commander, conducting the ceremonies.
The Scottish Rite Masonic Center in Miami is a splendid example of Egyptian architecture, advantageously situated at the corner of N.W. Third Street and N.W. North River Drive, within easy access from the main business district. Completed in 1924 at a cost of $350,000, including the land, it is an imposing edifice covering the major portion of five lots overlooking the Miami River on one side, and Lummus Park on the other, with two entrances on Third Street, and one on North River Drive.
Rising three stories tall with four Doric columns on the Third Street side, it is beautifully embellished and the Ziggurat-shaped mass of the roof capped by a cupola is quite striking when viewed from the river. A broad flight of steps leads up to a portico with four large columns riding majestically to the top of the building, through which the main entrance opens into a spacious foyer, comfortably furnished as a lounge. On opposite sides of this foyer are the General Secretary's office and the Business office, and the center opening opposite the main entrance leads to the corridor of the auditorium, from which a ramp ascends to the main floor. Two stairways give access to the balconies.
The auditorium, in addition to the main floor, has two main balconies and two smaller balconies over the side corridors, with a combined seating capacity of 715 people. The Egyptian motif is carried out here also, with the room rising to a large dome from which is suspended a magnificent chandelier done in many colors. The several exits and ornamental grills are beautifully decorated in the same manner and on the four columns that support the dome are large light panels featuring the emblems of the Order.
The stage is large enough to accommodate extensive theatrical productions and is equipped with all necessary equipment including a complete electrical switchboard to control all of the lighting effects. In the loft is hung scenery of every description necessary to the presentation of all of the degrees, which was build especially for that purpose at a cost of $23,000.
During World War II the U.S. Army occupied the Banquet Hall and other parts of the building for use as an air raid center and other military operations. While this necessarily curtailed some of the activities of the Rite, Miami Consistory is very grateful that it had these facilities and was able to place them at the service of the armed forces operating in the defense of our Country.
A project started in May of 1969 to redecorate and refurbish the interior of the Center. One of the lodge rooms was converted into a lounge and named after a generous benefactor of the Valley of Miami. A beautiful oil portrait at the entrance and a bronze plaque nearby states that the room is named after Raymond E. Salt, 32° KCCH, whose generosity made this hall a reality.
Badly damaged in 1992 by Hurricane Andrew, the building was completely restored at a cost of $2.7 million. Most impressive in the restoration is the set of 50 hand-painted backdrops decorating the stage for historic tableaus used in the Rite's symbolic degrees. During the restoration an orchestra pit was discovered under the floor of the auditorium, where 700 new theater seats and a new sound system were installed.
In the main lodge room, the walls are lined with photos of initiates from the past, dating back to the William Jennings Bryan class of March 1926.
The building is so elaborate that few of those who regularly use it have seen it all. The Miami Herald in 1996 marveled at its detail; 70 rooms; a Skinner pipe organ; two dining rooms; a commercial kitchen; a print shop; a library; and no less than 14 bathrooms; a veritable architectural labyrinth. Built for another day and time, it challenges the imagination to adequately describe it.
This history of the Miami Scottish Rite is a compilation of information obtained from various sources. The main source being a history of the Miami Scottish Rite written by Ill. H.R. (Chubby) Wright, 33° . Excerpts were also used from a short history of the Miami Scottish Rite by Ill. Irwin Kirby 33° and "The Miami River and It's Tributaries" by Donald C. Gaby. Also quoted is an article entitled "Rite of Passage" from the July 19, 1996 issue of The Miami Herald, by Geoffrey Tomb. In addition, Information was drawn from several long-time members.