History of the Salina Masonic Temple

Most people in Saline county and Masons throughout northwestern Kansas are familiar with the six-story, 120,000 square foot Masonic Temple on Santa Fe, just south of Downtown, and on the north side of the regional hospital.  It’s hard to miss and it’s been there since being reconstructed in 1927.  Previous structures were destroyed by fire and the 1921 replacement collapsed. The current facility was built to last and so it has.

Architecturally, the building features white, rose, grey and cream marble both inside and outside.  Railings on the steps and around the balcony areas are mahogany.  The cornice that surrounds the roof is copper and highlights a circle of gargoyles.  From the historical and Masonic perspective, the grand entry steps, the beautiful forget-me-nots decorating the walls, and the historical scenery drops in auditorium, all have significance. The Building offers a variety of uniquely decorated and sized areas for community use, with individual rooms having capacity to host groups of 50, 200, 500, and an auditorium that can seat up to 1,500 and is currently providing a unique venue for weddings, high school proms, dances, plays, dinner theatre productions and musical events and the recent departure ceremony for the National Guard being deployed abroad.

Over the past several decades, the building has seen its share of needed repairs including the recent replacement of the boiler.  And, as membership has declined along with dues income, affordability has become a key question, leaving the Masonic groups located in the building to debate whether or not they should continue to try to stay in it.

To address sustainability, the first thought was to rent office spaces to business and doctor groups as the Salina Regional Hospital is directly across the street.  Upon examination of the potential costs of renovations and improvements to accommodate new tenants, it was soon realized that several million dollars would be needed…a sum that could not be readily recovered with commercial rents.  The costs would have to come from philanthropy.  Subsequently, The Salina Masonic Temple Foundation, a 50-1 (c) (3) was established for the purpose of preserving and renovating the building.  Further, a fundraising planning study was conducted to determine the philanthropic capacity of such an effort.

The idea, essentially, is to offer nonprofit agencies incentives to move into the building and create a new synergism for the Masonic groups as well.  Among those interviewed for the study, was Andy Martin, Executive Director of the Salina United Way.  As the prospective use of the building was described to him, he began to see a logical connection between our project and the “Advancing Community Together for 2020,” (A.C.T.) initiative being sponsored and hosted by the Salina Area United Way.  The purpose of this activity is to address the “need and potential value of community based planning on how best to improve individual lives and strengthen the Salina area communities.”  And while the United Way is in a unique position to work with all the stakeholders, a Community Resource Center can provide a venue and critical tools to meet this need.

The results of our study clearly indicated that such a figure was not achievable at this time, but that $5.5 million might be raised.  Further, the plan was refined to create a true resource center serving not only the nonprofit tenant/partners; but also other groups and the citizens of the community, while not affecting the existing occupants.   Modest rentals from the new tenants, along with other entrepreneurial revenue generated through facility usage fees provide a business plan that insures long-term self-sustainability for the building and the Community Resource Center.  However as bids for the actual work required began to come in, it became apparent that a more ambitious goal was needed and a final target of $7 million will challenge the foundation.