BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) – In the market for a 39,000 square foot building? You may want to look at the Masonic Temple: The 100-year-old landmark is for sale.
The impressive, almost medieval concrete edifice – Renaissance Revival, in architectural terms – is three stories plus a basement. It has a half-dozen or more meeting rooms –including two daunting sanctuaries – a full kitchen, a childhood language center and some of the steepest stairs you’ll find anywhere. It also has a game room with war-era checkers sets and several long-ignored pool tables and one incredible space with 25 foot ceilings.
“It’s an amazing, amazing theater,” Clint Bear says. “And it’s all operable. We just don’t have the people anymore to operate the scenery that’s onstage, and the sound and the lights. It takes about 11 to 15 people.”
Bear, one of the highest ranking Masons in Kern County, says membership has shrunk from a high of 1500, in the 1960s, to 180 today.
“The thing that breaks my heart the most,” Bear said. “is that over the last two years, especially, the average age here is probably in the area of … 70, give or take. And we have the upper echelon, (which) been around a long time (that’s even older). We’ve lost a lot of brothers even over this last year.”
So they’re selling: asking price, $6 million, no extra charge for the musty mysteriousness of the place.
The building sits near the corner of 18th and F, across the street from the Guild House, and right next door to the New Yorker. It dwarfs them both, and in fact dwarfs everything in the vicinity. Built in 1923 — exactly a century ago – it is the fraternal organization’s third headquarters in Bakersfield. Now it’s time to move. Bear said the organization, which is actually comprised of several divisions and subchapters, will look to lease another building and will also distribute its members among several other area temples.
Freemasonry, Bear acknowledges, can seem mysterious. But he says the organization, which traces its ancestry to the end of the 14th century, is a character building organization.
“So many people say it’s a secret society,” he acknowledged, “but it’s a learning experience and it’s kept within the body of masonry. ”One of its secrets is out now, though — the place where all that mystery has taken place for a full century is on the market.
Apartments? Offices? Restaurants? The Masonic Temple could be any one of those things. Given its size, it probably could be all of those things.