The Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple is housed in one of the most glorious pieces of architecture to be found in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Originally built as the Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral, the building is significant as an example of the work of Raymond M. Hood (1881-1934), a prominent architect of the 1920s and early 1930s, and as a unique example of Neo-Gothic architecture in Scranton.
Raymond Hood's productive career spanned from 1922, when he and a collaborator won the Chicago Tribune design competition, to his untimely death at 53 in 1934. Hood became a nationally prominent architect trained in the Beaux Arts tradition and proficient with historic styles. During those 12 years, Hood was the principle designer or primary collaborator in a number of high-profile progressive skyscraper designs, mainly in New York City, where he designed the Daily News Building and the McGraw-Hill Building in mid-town Manhattan, and was part of the team that designed Rockefeller Center.
The Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral is located at 420 North Washington Avenue in downtown Scranton. The 1930 Temple-cathedral is a highly stylized Neo-Gothic and Romanesque pastiche executed by Hood. The design of the building was to be a monument to Masonry. Masonic lodges in Scranton for years felt the need for a suitable home or temple, and prior to the construction of this building they used an old armory. Bids for construction were taken in January, 1927.
The Masonic Temple and Scottish Rite Cathedral was inaugurated on January 2, 1930 when the first meeting was held in the building. The rectangular plan building is clad in coursed ashlar Indiana limestone supported by a structural steel framework. The front (west) facade is divided into three sections: the central and southern sections consist of five stories and the northern section consists of three stories.
The temple-cathedral originally included an 1800 seat auditorium, a grand ballroom, an eight lane bowling alley, a library, a "Ladies Parlor," two formal lodge rooms, a billiard and card parlor, and a smaller theater / lodge hall combination. The auditorium and ballroom were intended for use by the Scranton community for various functions.
Over time decreasing membership in the various lodges of Scranton placed a financial burden on its members that was not able to be sustained. A grass roots effort was launched to form a not-for-profit organization dedicated to both preserving the physical structure of the temple and providing an ongoing programming source for the community.
Today the Scranton Cultural Center at the Masonic Temple operates the facility as a regional performance and cultural hub. The Center serves as the residence for national tours of Broadway musicals and concerts and hosts many or the areas top regional companies.