THE MASONIC TEMPLE
FORMER FERRIS GRAND OPERA HOUSE
HISTORICAL INVESTIGATION, DOCUMENTATION, AND CONSULTING
The Masonic Temple, formerly Ferris Grand Opera House, was built in 1898 by an architect known only as “Mr. Marvin” and by Leon Hemenway Moore, who was said to be responsible for many of the town’s buildings for Mr. A.D. Ferris. This Richardsonian Romanesque style building is a three-story Sioux quartzite building.
Originally the building contained two stores on the First Floor, the Ferris Grand Opera House on the Second Floor and a balcony on the Third. At its grand opening on March 10, 1899, the opera house boasted seating for 800 on the main ﬂoor, balcony and boxes. It was said to be the largest and ﬁnest facility of its kind in the Northwest. The Pipestone County Star newspaper referred to it as: “The Handsomest Opera House in Southern Minnesota.”
Following its purchase by the Masonic Bodies in 1916 the interior of the building was completely remodelled. Two stories in height, the Lodge Room is the most important space of the building. The most important features are the murals and hand painted decoration. Another important feature that deﬁnes this space, is the excellent woodwork; i.e., oak coﬀered beams, crown molding, chair rail, doors, etc.
In 1917, Leo Henke, an Austrian artist, created murals of ancient Biblical scenes on the walls of the Lodge Room, the larger room of the building. He received the inspiration for the murals from a 1903 edition of The Illustrated History of Freemasonry. The painting technique used is executed in oil on plaster.
The wall painted decoration is comprised of:
- Twelve (12) horizontal ﬁgurative murals
- Eight (8) painted Egyptian ﬁgures between the murals
- Eight (8) identical column-like paintings with Egyptian symbol
- Twelve (12) large empty rectangles, under the murals, delineated by painted borders
The painted walls and ceiling panels present numerous older and newer cracks. These damages were inﬂicted to the walls during past structural modiﬁcations and repairs. Other damages consist of blisters and missing areas of paint due to inﬁltrating water and salt migration.
The Masonic Temple building, referred to as Quarry Lodge No. 148 building, is part of the Pipestone Commercial Historic District. The building and its contents are considered by the Minnesota Historical Society, as one of Southern Minnesota’s most treasured assets.
The services provided to the Owner (Pipestone Historical Society) by RARA included: investigation, documentation, and recommendations for an accurate restoration of the interior murals and architectural elements throughout the building.