The Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County, Inc. (H.P.A.) will hold its first Board of Directors and General Membership meetings of the year at the Wichita Scottish Rite Masonic Center (Temple) [as it is now called, reflecting the resource for both fraternity and community], located at 332 East First Street (First and Topeka) on Sunday, February 19, 2012. H.P.A. has visited the Center before on Sunday, January 18, 1998 with a fascinating tour hosted by Jerry Cole, John Myers and Richard Johnstone. However, H.P.A. wanted to make a return visit for a couple of reasons.

First, as related in an article in The Wichita Eagle, "Repairs erase vandals' scars," on November 17, 2011, stained-glass doors at the Wichita Scottish Rite Center were damaged in a series of incidents stretching from August to October. Five windows - three in the south entryway and two in the east entryway - were damaged. In one incident, a vandal threw a roll of smoldering paper towels through a broken pane, singeing the carpet. Thick sheets of quarter-inch, bullet-proof polycarbonate now protect the stained glass. So, we wanted to take a look at the repairs, as well as the result.

Second, freemasonry has recently been one of the subjects on Brad Meltzer's Decoded, an American mystery and conspiracy theory investigation television series on the History channel. Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. It now exists in various forms all over the world with a membership estimated at around six million. In addition to knowing more about the history and architecture of the building, we also wanted to learn more about the background and philosophy of the Masons.

Designed by architects Proudfoot and Bird, this impressive four-story rusticated stone structure was built in 1887-1888 as the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA). The building is typical of Proudfoot and Bird designs with its massive stone masonry, gables, arches and castellated tower. It is an excellent example of Richardsonian Romanesque architecture executed in Kansas limestone. The YMCA sold the building to the Scottish Rite Masons in 1898 and the Masons commissioned C.W. Terry to design an addition for the north side in 1907. Terry's plan blends impeccably with the architecture of the original structure. The interior of the building with its grand stairway, Crystal Room with hand-beveled plate glass and third floor art glass dome retains the elegance of a by-gone era.

The Board of Directors meeting will commence at 1:30 p.m. with a very brief General Membership meeting to follow at 2:30 p.m. Immediately thereafter, we will adjourn for a guided tour of the Scottish Rite Masonic Center.