In most circles, Toronto’s storied Masonic Temple is better known as a live music venue than for its original purpose — a meeting place for the Masons, an ancient and semi-secret fraternal sect. But nearly 20 years after they moved their elaborate rites and rituals to other meeting halls, Toronto-area Masons want to find a way to reclaim their temple, which is once again for sale.
As Leonard Feldt, past district deputy grand master for Toronto Don Valley, explains, something sacred emanates from the imposing limestone and brick structure at the corner of Yonge St. and Davenport Rd.
“There’s a difference between going to (synagogue) in Toronto and standing in front of the Wailing Wall,” said Feldt, 56, who was initiated at the Masonic Temple. “There’s a feeling. That feel, you get it when you’re at 888 Yonge.”
Bell Media listed the 1918 building, which was most recently home to MTV Canada, in an open-bid process earlier this month.
According to Feldt, the Masons, who lost the property in the mid-’90s due to unpaid property taxes, are not currently planning to throw their hat in the ring.
However, he is exploring other paths to resurrecting the temple as a Masonic meeting place for some of the 14,000 members in Toronto and York Region.
Ideally, the Masons are seeking a trade: They will lend their expertise in redeveloping the facility to meet the heritage rules in exchange for use of the upper-floor meeting rooms. “We’d satisfy the city’s historic aspect on behalf of whoever the developer might be,” he said. “We’re the significant key in the use of this property. I don’t think anybody could develop it without our presence.”
Redeveloping the building would be a difficult proposition, thanks to stringent height restrictions and a tighter-than-average heritage designation, which protects the Masonic millwork and emblems inside.
Bell Media spokesman Scott Henderson said the company would be “happy to work with the Masons to put them in touch with any new owner.”
If the Toronto-area Masons are able to strike a deal with a new owner, they would need approval from the Grand Lodge of Canada, the province’s central governing body. “We would have to have our people inspect it, and see what changes have been made since we last owned it, and then the permission would be given to use it for Masonic purposes,” said grand secretary Terence Shand.
Although Shand said the Grand Lodge supports Masons “in anything they want to do as far as locations,” he speculated the Masonic Temple would require “an awful lot of alterations to restore it back to the setup it was prior to Bell acquiring it.”
Still, Toronto-area Masons — whose numbers have held fairly steady in recent years, due in part to a renewed interest from the younger generation — are not giving up hope. “To perform these beautiful rituals in Freemasonry in a place with so much history, it just makes it 10 times more powerful,” said Stefano Amelio, 31, who began researching the sect online in the early 2000s before joining in 2008. “Any which way to get us back in there, I’d be happy with.”
(source: Grand Lodge of Canada and http://www.thestar.com/news/gta/2013/03/20/toronto_masons_look_for_ways_to_reclaim_the_masonic_temple.html)