of the Western Arkansas Scottish Rite Temple
Fort Smith, Arkansas
ceremonies and Blue Lodge opening at the "new" Masonic Temple was on
September 16,1929. It was great day for the Masons throughout the Fort
Smith area, with members and dignitaries from the Grand Lodges of Arkansas and
Oklahoma and members representing a practically all Masonic organizations in the
two states present. The ceremonies, of course, were open to Master Masons only.
Board of Directors of the magnificent new Masonic Temple were: Oscar Fentress,
President; Hurd J. Miller, Vice-President; John Archer, Treasurer; R. L.
Secrest, Secretary; J. L. Price, WB. Nichols, R. C. Mack, W. T. Oglesby, and J.
In a brochure entitled The New Masonic Temple,
Fort Smith, Arkansas, commemorating the Dedication of the Temple, and printed in
September, 1929, appreciation is expressed: "To the Masonic membership who,
by their loyalty, sacrifice and labor have made the new Masonic Temple a
reality, this book is dedicated. Built upon the bedrock of the Masonic
faith," it is stated, "the new home of the Masons stands, a challenge
to the future, a tribute to the past."
way of the temple builders “was no path strewn with roses. Determined Masons had dreamed and planned the new
Temple for many years. "Years and years of thoughtful labor are in the
massive stones of the temple."
the month of November, 1919, the Baer Memorial Temple, located at North Sixth
and C Streets, and occupied by Belle Point Lodge No. 20 and the York Rite and
Eastern Star chapters since May, 1870, was so badly damaged by fire that it
could no longer be used as a meeting place for Masonry in Fort Smith.
recent organization of a new Eastern Star chapter and its growth and the
formation of another Blue Lodge, Sebastian No. 706, plus the Rainbow Order for
girls, and the new DeMolay chapter for boys, together with a general increase in
Masonic activity and the hope of being able to confer the Scottish Rite degrees,
made it important that all these Masonic
organizations be housed together. Judge Joseph M. Hill was asked to devise a
plan for financing a suitable building.
As a result the Masonic Home Association
was created. The first meeting was held august 3, 1920, in the Masonic Lodge
Room of the Progress Club. Board members were: A.M. Forby, G. L. Oliver, R. L.
Secrest, W. B. Nichols, M. B. Reed, John Archer, Leon Guthrie, and I. H.
Temporary quarters for the Masonic
organizations were arranged for in a two story building at North Eighth end A
Streets, but the continued growth of Masonic groups in the city soon made the
new quarters inadequate. A Group of Eight, as it was called, got together and
dreamed great dreams. This group consisted of Hurd J. Miller, R. L. Secrest,
Neil Pryor, Tom Cutting, Fred Warren, W. R. Simpson, WT. Oglesby, and Curtis C.
Wright. They gave substance to their dream by each contributing $500 towards the
new temple fund. The Group of Eight appeared in a body before the Masonic Home
Association and asked permission to undertake the task of raising funds to erect
a new Masonic Temple, one that would house all the Masonic organizations in Fort
was granted on February 3,1924, and a committee was appointed to select a site.
Upon recommendation of this committee a half block of ground was purchased at
North Eleventh and B Streets for $49.250. General sanction of the Masonic orders
for the erection of the temple on this site was approved unanimously at a called
meeting February 16.
Architects were George H. Mann, Little
Rock, assisted by Harlson and Nelson of Fort Smith. The general contract was let
to Gordon Walker,
Little Rock, on a bid of $208,500,June 11,1927. Ground was broken June 25.
Other contracts not included in the general award, together with furnishings and
equipment, brought the total cost of Masonry's new home in Fort Smith to
$385,000. (It is interesting to note that the Temple and its contents are now,
the year 2000, insured for several this amount.)
The cornerstone was laid December 7,1928,
with officials of the Grand Lodge of Arkansas officiating, assisted by directors
of the Masonic Home Association and the Group of Eight. The Temple was opened to
the general public, September 7 and 8,1929. It was dedicated by the Grand Lodge
of Arkansas September 16,1929. The first meetings were held in the temple the
week of September 9,1929.
Temple is two stories in height, plus a basement. The building is of Bedford
stone. The auditorium has a seating capacity of 900.
Capacity, with supplementary chairs, is 1,200.
The Fort Smith Masonic Temple is indeed a
tribute to Masonry. Guarding the portals of the main entrance on the north
Eleventh Street side are two cast sphinxes, symbolic of the secrets which worthy
men may receive within the doors of the great edifice.
In the basement of the Temple is a large
dining hall, 42 feet by 124 feet. On the second floor is a spacious lobby 70
feet long, which offers entrance into the beautiful Amrita Grotto Room, the
Memorial Room, the Commandery Room, the Captain of the Guard Room, and smaller
compartments. On the mezzanine is the Armory of the Commandery, a music room,
and two lecture rooms.
The entire building is equipped with light
fixtures of special design, and the
larger rooms have wall-to-wall carpeting.
Temple has all modern fixtures. Woodwork is of Philippine mahogany, and the
dining room and lobby floors are all terrazzo. The dining room has a capacity of
600 persons at one time.
Executive offices are located directly to the left of the main entrance on North Eleventh Street.
The Temple was placed on the National Historic Building in 1992.
In 2003, the Valley of Fort Smith, AASR, took control of the operation of the Temple and it is now known as Western Arkansas Scottish Rite Temple.