Guthrie, Oklahoma was once the capital of Oklahoma Territory. When the territory became a state, that title went to Oklahoma City; stolen in the dead of night, some say. Standing on the land once meant for the state capital, Guthrie now has something a bit more magnificent and exotic. Guthrie has one of the largest Scottish Rite Temples in the world, which can be toured for a mere $5.
Touring the Scottish Rite Temple in Guthrie, Oklahoma
Approaching this massive limestone structure from the front has a way of making you feel very, very small. Elaborate doors dwarf your approach and a sign ushers you to a door at the far right. Entering the office area you begin to get an idea of what you are about to see.
Elaborate stained glass windows add an amber glow to the light while the heavy carved chairs have an intricate formidabilty, both inviting you to come closer and keeping you at arm’s reach. “Sit and relax,” I am told by Tom Anthony, a 32nd Degree KCCH (Knight Commander Court of Honor), “Your tour won’t start for another 10 minutes.”
I sit, my eyes drawn around the room, taking in the marble floors, paintings, and memorabilia as I wait. Four others will join me on this tour into the rooms of this private society.
A few minutes later the tour begins. Tom opens the door and sends us into the atrium, meeting us at the bottom of the stairs after taking the elevator down. He actually beats us to the main floor as we all stop in awe at the top of the stairs.
The Atrium is a fitting place to begin the tour, a showstopper, almost too grand to be in central Oklahoma. Built in the style of ancient Rome, columns rise nearly 60 feet drawing your eye to the arched ceiling adorned with intricate plaster work, irreplaceable chandeliers and a stained glass skylight which appears as large as an Olympic sized pool.
Tom shares tales of the temple with us; stories of the laborers from Italy, the marble from Tennessee and the millions of dollars that the chandeliers are insured for. While hours could be spent in this room alone, there are a dozen more rooms to be seen.
The next room Tom led us to was the Auditorium. Used for the annual pageant, which can only be attended by Masons of a certain degree, this room belongs in a world renowned opera house. Wall and ceiling paintings drew my eye above the double balconies absorbing my attention until Tom hit a single note on the pipe organ. “This is one of only two concert organs ever manufactured by the Kimball Company,” he tells us as the note echoes off the walls. “Over 5300 pipes are in the arch above the stage. This organ has been appraised at over $1 million,” he finished matter-of-factly, leading us on to the next room.
Each room in the temple has a different theme, all breathtaking, expensive and extraordinary. No cost was spared. And while each piece of furniture, every carpet, and even individual panes of glass were custom made, nothing is off limits in terms of sitting or touching. “This is a building that we use,” Tom reminded us as I walked on the largest handwoven, single loom rug in the world. Made by the Donegal Rug company in Ireland, as were all the rugs in the temple, it took two flat train cars to transport it across the US and part of the limestone wall had to be dismantled to place it in the room. On top of the carpet is a Wurlitzer Grand Piano, manufactured specially to match the designs on the mahogany table in the center of the room.
One by one we toured the rooms, each so vastly different from the last until, we reached the most magnificent, in my eyes at least. The library. 13th Century Gothic style vaulted ceilings supported by columns rise above ornately carved glass-front bookcases filled with tomes donated by members. Many priceless first editions make up this set, nestled along side school books from long ago, Oklahoma history and many, many books of Masonic rules and lore. “The oak cabinets and bookcases were built on site,” Tom tells us as we wander through the room sharing our discoveries aloud.
Soon we came to Solomon’s Arch, the corridor that connects the “new” temple to the Grand Ballroom. Once the home of the Oklahoma Legislature, the ballroom appears sedate after touring the grandeur of the temple. A second floor promenade marches outside unadorned doors to both lodging and meeting rooms. The view from here would be astounding when the ballroom is filled with banquet tables or dancing couples.
By the time we reached the lowest level of the temple our 30 minute tour had stretched to nearly two hours, and even at that it felt rushed. The men in our small group were visibly relaxed when we entered what was possibly the greatest “man cave” in the Midwest.
Decorated in a Native American theme, the game room is filled with pool tables, card tables and luxurious leather couches, made for relaxing. Just behind it is the smoking room, with a state of the art air purifier, more leather couches and plenty of magazines.
Also on this level is the Museum and Archives. Here we found the magnificent hand drawn depictions of each room, so detailed as to include painted wall and carpet designs. Also here are costumes from seemingly every branch of Freemasonry, mens and womens, medals, dinnerware, badges and even rooms for the youth orders.
After 2 ½ hours touring the Temple and asking questions I felt sure of two things:
The Brotherhood of the Scottish Rite is both complex and confusing. Of course Tom didn’t share any secrets but in sharing the stories I had the feeling that this not-so-secret society may be more secretive than I can even imagine. But then, I could just have an overactive imagination.
If nothing else, the Freemasons who conceived, built and decorated this structure had both skills and heritage that they were proud of, so proud that they built it into a showplace of princely proportions. And the men who care for it today are just as proud of what they have been handed. That was told in every word Tom spoke. He loves his organization and his brothers within with a strength we should all be so lucky to feel.
If you visit:
Tours take place at 10am and 2pm, Monday thru Friday.
$5 fee, waived for all Masons, children and students.
Though the tour is supposed to be 30 minutes, plan a couple of hours. Your guide will likely be happy to answer any questions about the building, its construction and general knowledge questions about the Order.
Library and Writing Room courtesy of Guthrie Scottish Rite Organization.
Atrium and Front View by the author.Jody Halsted shares her family’s travel tales
at Family Rambling. She loves exploring
the Midwest and sharing it’s treasures.