From Landmark Masonic Temple to Private Museum

After years on the market, Wilshire’s iconic Scottish Rite Masonic Temple has finally been purchased by high-profile buyers.

Photo courtesy Marie Taylor and Dan Bacani, NAI Capital The iconic Scottish Rite Masonic Temple that takes up an entire block on Wilshire between Plymouth and Lucerne has recently been sold to the Marciano brothers, of Guess Inc. fame, who will use it for a private art museum.

Anyone who’s ever driven down Wilshire in the Windsor Square area can’t help but have noticed the huge Scottish Rite Masonic Temple that spans an entire block between Plymouth and Lucerne. It’s the one with the eight statues on the marble façade, the colorful mosaics and carvings.

You know the building — it looks a little like the more than 50 modern bank buildings (formerly Home Savings, now mostly Chase Banks) that dot the Los Angeles area. They were all designed by famed architect and designer Millard Sheets. “The Scottish Rite Cathedral was one of the most exciting projects I ever had anything to do with,”he once said.

Built in 1960 the 90,000-square-foot Temple is a four-story building situated on two acres of land. It includes various meeting rooms, offices, a large ballroom on the top floor, four elevators and a 1,800-seat theater. It encompasses an entire city block, with approximately 400 invaluable linear feet of Wilshire Boulevard frontage.

The building had been little used and on and off the market since about 1994. The Grand Lodge of Free and Acceptable Masons of California, part of the oldest and largest global fraternity in existence, had been shrinking, and maintenance costs were formidable.

The temple was used as a film location for 2004’s National Treasure, starring Nicolas Cage, which is about a fictitious Masonic conspiracy. Other commercial tenants rented it and used it for events that the neighbors found disruptive, so the city revoked its certificate of occupancy in 2005. After that there wasn’t much the Masons could do with the building as an income source.

Photo courtesy Marie Taylor and Dan Bacani, NAI Capital Inside the Main Hall of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire, you'll find one of the three murals painted by building designer Millard Sheets. The hall had been out of use for many years before it was sold recently, to be used as a private art museum.

According to Dan Bacani and Marie Taylor of NAI Capital, who were responsible for the final sale, it was a particular challenge because of zoning issues and deferred maintenance.

It seems the only uses the building was zoned for were as a non-profit organization base, an office building, a 40-unit multifamily dwelling (the space could easily accommodate 80 units) and a gallery or museum.

“Ultimately, our creative efforts resulted in multiple all-cash offers from qualified buyers,” said Taylor. “During the process, we worked collaboratively with the City of Los Angeles, the Windsor Square Homeowners Association, legal counsel and both parties to resolve some of the complicated issues involving the sale of the property."

And the winner is? According to Roger Vincent of the Los Angeles Times, blue jeans magnates Maurice and Paul Marciano. It’s reported they paid $8 million, and will be using it as a private museum to house and display their private art collection.

Who knew the founders of Guess?, Inc. were such serious art collectors? Actually, they were recently ranked among the world’s top 200 art collectors by ARTnews magazine, and serve on the board of trustees of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art.

A spokesperson told the L.A. Times that they intend to maintain the integrity of the original Sheets exterior. It’s also rumored that once they’ve finished renovations in the next year or two, they will occasionally open it up to the public. But, in keeping with the discreet policies of the original Masonic owners, more-specific details have not been released.

Photo courtesy Marie Taylor and Dan Bacani, NAI Capital The west side of the Scottish Rite Masonic Temple on Wilshire shows the carvings, mosaics and marble typical of designer Millard Sheets, who also designed the numerous Home Savings (now mostly Chase Bank) buildings that dot the Los Angeles area.


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