If you make your way along the Miami River, chances are you’ve noticed a big building with double-headed eagles, and giant pillars that seems dropped out of nowhere.
That structure is the Scottish Rite Temple and has been around for nearly a century.
The organization is a branch of freemasonry and the temple has hosted meetings for decades, but now the building is used for everything from weddings and school plays to mixed martial arts events.
We got the backstory from Herman Gonzalez, the Rite’s general secretary.
THE SCOTTISH RITE’S HISTORY The Scottish Rite has been around for centuries, but in the U.S. its history goes back to 1801, when the Scottish Rite held its first meetings in the Shepheard’s Tavern in South Carolina. In Miami, the founders began organizing in 1916 and the chapter became official in 1919.
THE NAME Yeah, so, despite the name, the organization is not directly tied to anything happening in Scotland. The organization’s founding can actually be traced back to France, but the folklore of the organization and their role in masonry goes back to Scotland.
WHAT SCOTTISH RITE IS It’s a fraternity. And a mason can join the Rite when they reach “master” level and have learned the first three degrees of masonic education. Some members say reaching that level is like graduating high school and joining the Rite is like going to college.
THE BUILDING’S HISTORY Construction on the building finished in 1924, just before the devastating Great Hurricane of 1926. The building held up after the storm and was used also used as a meeting place for elected officials and for the community because of its size and location near the river and the developing Downtown area.
THE BUILDING Some members call it the “white elephant” because of its color and its size. The three-story building’s got dozens of meeting rooms, a theater with balcony seating, and a ballroom in the basement.
THE PRESENT The temple is still primarily used for Scottish Rite meetings (Yes, they’re still around) and by other masonic lodges, but the organization has been renting the space for various uses in recent years. They host performances by Orchestra Miami, dance events like One World Soul of Dance and Tribal Mania, and mixed martial arts events. Schools have used the theater for plays, and the ballroom has also been used for corporate events and weddings.
SOME FUN FACTS The building has 37 rooms and 13 bathrooms. And the theater still has many of the original light fixtures from the 1920s. It’s also equipped with a classic pipe organ.
Got other questions about landmarks in Miami? Is there anything else you’ve always wondered about? Nothing’s too random. Let us know in the comments or email us at [email protected]