For 70 years, the Masonic Temple at 45th Street and Western Avenue in Southwest Los Angeles was known as a place of giving.
It was a place where the Masons who assembled in a building known as the Scottish Rite Cathedral would plan how they could help the community: handing out food to the needy, hosting neighborhood festivals and donating Christmas gifts to poor children.
But in 1994, the Northridge earthquake caused so much damage to the building that the Masons could no longer meet in their second-floor headquarters.
Now the 1924 cathedral is coming back. Thanks to the perseverance of Masons who lobbied for a federal grant, rehabilitation of the building began recently.
The project is being funded by a $310,000 grant from a National Park Service program to rehabilitate earthquake-damaged buildings of historic significance.
"The reason we helped with the funding is because it's a very important building in South Los Angeles," said Liz Westerfield, director of the rehabilitation program. She added that the building is vital not only for its architecture but for the community help the Masons provided.
The two-story brick building, designed by Louisiana architect Harry C. Deckbar, features an elegant rotunda, elaborate carved pillars and ceilings, and a large kitchen. The building, although badly damaged by the quake, was never red-tagged, which would have required complete evacuation. The ground-floor businesses have remained open.
The Masons are an organization of men of different religions who are committed to helping the needy. The name derives from the builders of King Solomon's temple, but as former Scottish Rite President John Brasfield Jr. says, "The Masons don't build buildings anymore, we build men."
The Masons are planning to be back in their restored meeting rooms next year so they can continue to follow their philosophy of "the more you have, the more you owe to those in need."