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June 12, 2013

Rochester’s lodge donates to Detroit Masonic Temple

By Mary Beth Almond
C & G Staff Writer

ROCHESTER — The Detroit Masonic Temple has paid off its outstanding tax bill to the city of Detroit, thanks to recent donations from Detroit native and former White Stripes front man Jack White, paired with a smaller contribution from the Corinthian Masonic Lodge No. 241 in Rochester.

The 14-story Masonic Temple — the largest Masonic temple in the world, according to its website — was days away from being put up for sale when an anonymous donor, later identified was White, contributed the outstanding total of $142,000.

Detroit Masonic Temple Association President Roger Sobran said White’s donation could not have come at a better time — the payment posted May 30, just four days before the June 3 deadline that would have sent the historic venue to the county auction block.

“We are eternally grateful to him for it,” Sobran said in a statement. “Jack’s magnanimous generosity and unflinching loyalty to this historic building and his Detroit roots is appreciated beyond words.”

White has a long history with the Detroit Masonic Temple, Sobran said. His mother once served as an usher at the venue, where he later performed onstage on several occasions. 

In light of White’s generosity, Sobran said the Masonic Temple Association will be naming it’s Cathedral Theatre the Jack White Theatre. 

“We plan to name one of our theaters after Jack White for bringing our taxes up to date, so our smaller theater, which is the one that he chose to play in the last few times he was here at the Masonic,” Sobran said. “He wanted no recognition for it. It was something that we offered.”

Just one day before White’s donation, the Corinthian Masonic Lodge No. 241 contributed $18,000 to the Detroit Masonic Temple. An earlier payment of $10,000 on the bill was made in April, Sobran added.

Jim Mattison, past master and treasurer of Corinthian Lodge No. 241, said the lodge — which his currently located in Rochester, was originally located in the Masonic Temple in downtown Detroit years ago.

“When I first joined the Masons, that’s where we were, so I have a soft spot in my heart for that building,” he said. “I would hate to see anything happen to the building.”

Corinthian Lodge No. 241 officials said they decided to make the donation to the Detroit Masonic Temple as a capital cornerstone, so that the historic institution may move forward toward the future.

“Nobody ever has more than enough money, so we just decided that we would make a donation toward the future of the Masonic Temple — for improvements or any financial obligations that came along, or whatever. We’re not bottomless pockets, but we were able to give them a pretty good size check, and they were very appreciative of that,” he said.

Sobran said he’s “very grateful” to the Corinthian Lodge for stepping up and making the donation.

“Their donation is going to be used for some of our utility debt. It helps keep us afloat,” Sobran added. “Their intention was to encourage other lodges and Masons … to help bring back and restore the Masonic Temple back to its glory, and we’re heading in that direction.”

The 600,000-square-foot building — which takes up the entire block of 500 Temple St., just north of downtown — boasts 1,037 rooms, the 4,400-seat Masonic Temple Theatre, the 1,586-seat Cathedral Theater — soon to be Jack White Theatre — and a 17,500-square-foot drill hall that the Detroit Roller Derby Girls use for events. The temple also has numerous public spaces, including three auditoriums and two grand ballrooms, as well as seven lodge rooms, offices and dining spaces. It was placed on the state’s Historic Registry in 1964 and the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

Those who wish to make a donation to the Detroit Masonic Temple are asked to visit www.themasonic.com, where they can contribute by clicking on the “Support the Temple” tab.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Mary Beth Almond at malmond@candgnews.com or at (586)498-1060.