In 2012 we were surprised to learn that RGRTA had dug up the foundation of the RKO Palace Theater while excavating for the new transit terminal. This week, Jim Memmott reported on some more fantastic treasures that were unearthed at the same site. Some time last year seven heavy stones (some weighing a ton) were pulled up from depths of up to 30 feet below street level. Each stone bore a symbol of the Freemasons…
Between 1901 and 1932 a Masonic Temple stood here at the corner of N. Clinton and Mortimer Street. This view is looking northwest from the area of the Sibley Building across the street.
Jim’s article states that the Masonic Temple was razed in 1932 for the RKO Theater. However, I think this may be incorrect, as the theater first opened in 1928. In fact, in the photo above you can see the theater building immediately to the right of the Masonic Temple. In actuality, the temple was razed for a parking lot.
Studying these images of the temple, it’s difficult to say where exactly the stones were located on the building’s façade. This older photo shows ornamental stones along the top cornice of the building and I originally thought it might be those. But in the later photo these stones are missing which seems to indicate they were removed prior to demolition. Although it does look like each side of the building had seven of them; and seven stones were recovered. Perhaps one side of the building kept its stones until demolition. Hmmm.
Anyway, this is a great story, and thanks to Jim Memmott for it. He also reports that RGRTA turned the stones over to members of the Freemasons and they are now “resting peacefully at a camp south of Rochester” until a more permanent home is identified.
And in case you’re asking yourself who the Freemasons are, they are perhaps the world’s oldest fraternity with lodges all over the world including here in Rochester since the 1820s. Their rituals are kept a closely guarded secret. Check out this recent story from the CBS Sunday Morning show.
UPDATE: The mystery has been solved by Christopher Brandt and Lynn Lonv in the comments below! Lynn found a high resolution photo on the Library of Congress website and Christopher found the exact same Freemason stone above the entrance on Clinton Ave.
Also, this article previously stated that the RKO Theater could be seen behind the Masonic Temple. This was incorrect as also pointed out by Lynn Lonv in the comments below. The RKO Theater can be seen to the right of the Masonic Temple (and it did wrap around the back side) however, the building that can be seen in the photo was actually an auditorium that was added onto the back of the Temple. Thanks Lynn and Christopher!
Tags: Clinton Avenue, construction, downtown Rochester, excavation, Freemasons, Jim Memmott, Masonic Temple, Mortimer Street, RKO Palace Theater, Rochester, Rochester Genesee Regional Transportation Authority (RGRTA), Rochester NY, RTS Transit Terminal
This entry was posted on Thursday, January 9th, 2014 at 12:30 am and is filed under Art + Culture, Rochester History, Rochester News, Transit + Infrastructure, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
It looks like there could have been some sort of design on the front of the faux balcony to the left of the top photo, under the third floor windows? Maybe there were more of them elsewhere? Or maybe the rectangles halfway between the top windows and the roof had that stonework? Or perhaps those things fell off backward onto the roof and were left there to rot?