Saturday, November 8, 2008

Visiting an old Valley

I attended a concert last night and unexpectedly found myself inside an old Scottish Rite building, formerly the home of the Valley of New York City.

We arrived near the end of the opening act’s set, so it was dark. While wrestling myself out of my overcoat my gaze was directed to the ceiling where, staring back at me, was a foursome of Rose Croix emblems. Then next to that I see the Consistory’s Double-Headed Eagle. Then the Council’s Scales of Justice, etc., etc.

I had no camera with me, and my phone of course is useless for such shooting, but the room can be see here.

The building is the Manhattan Center, home of Hammerstein Ballroom, which I’ve walked past maybe a thousand times, but had never entered. We were in the Grand Ballroom on the seventh floor. I later got to talking with someone sitting in front of me, who said he’d attended a show three weeks ago on another floor, and that hall had an Arabic design, so maybe that was once a Shrine facility?

The New York Times has this to say:

Masonic Movements

Q. On my way to work, I pass a building on West 34th Street now called the Manhattan Center. Carved into its facade are the words ''Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite.'' What does this mean?

A. The phrase refers to the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite of Free Masonry, an order of the New York Freemasons who once occupied that building.

A well-known fraternal organization, the Freemasons have been in New York since the place was called New Amsterdam. The first Grand Lodge of Freemasonry was opened in New York in 1781 (until then all Freemason lodges were part of a grand lodge in England). In 1789 George Washington was sworn as America's first president at Federal Hall in Lower Manhattan on a bible borrowed from the Freemason grand lodge on Lower Broadway.

In 1867 the Freemasons moved their grand lodge to 23rd Street and Sixth Avenue. In 1910 a new grand lodge was constructed in an adjacent lot at 24th Street. Over the years, several Freemason lodges have sprung up around the city, including the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, who occupied the Manhattan Center at 311 West 34th Street, between Eighth and Ninth Avenues, for just over a decade in the 1920's and 30's. Today the Scottish Rite, and 64 other Freemason lodges, meet at the Grand Lodge, still on 24th Street.

Famous New York Freemasons include Fiorello H. La Guardia, Harry Houdini, Duke Ellington and John Jacob Astor.

Anyway, it was a damn fine show, replete with the performer's justified cursing out of one rowdy audience member. Happy birthday Lara!

1 comment:

BlackEagle said...

Brother Jay,

There is another former SJ building on the East end of 34th St.

Of even more interest is the old Scottish Rite building on 29th St and Madison Ave, stradling the border between the Murray Hill and the Garment District neighborhoods in Manhattan.

This beautiful, noble building was purchased by Charles T. McClenehan for the NYC Scottish Rite Consistory, and it was the site of several luxurious meetings of the SRICF for which he was serving on the Grand High Council as the Secretary General. This building is now a hotel (see: ).