Spes Mea in Deo Est….my trust is in God.
It is the mission of the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, Southern Jurisdiction, to improve its members and enhance the communities in which they live by teaching and emulating the principles of Brotherly Love, Tolerance, Charity, and Truth. It is the duty of the Scottish Rite to actively embrace high social, moral, and spiritual values including fellowship, compassion, and dedication to God, family and country.
Virtus Junxit Mors Non Separabit…whom virtue unites, death will not separate.
Scottish Rite Comes to Wichita
The Scottish Rite bodies located at Wichita, Kansas, were organized and chartered by the Supreme Council of the Southern Jurisdiction as follows: in the month of December 1886, a notice was inserted in the Daily Eagle, inviting all Scottish Rite Masons who were in favor of organizing Bodies of the Rite in Wichita to meet at the Occidental Hotel. Only four brethren met in answer to the notice: Robert H. Smith, Sol T. Tuttle, Harvey S. Horner and J. Giles Smith. The only business transacted at the meeting was a resolution to proceed as soon as a sufficient number of brethren of the Rite could be found to constitute a quorum for an organization, and an adjournment was had until May 21. 1887, at which time twelve members of the Rite were present and a Lodge of Perfection was organized as Elmo Lodge of Perfection Number 9.
No one has been able to find out why Elmo Lodge of Perfection Number 9 was given the name “Elmo.” Lodge minutes. May 21, 1887, indicate that “On motion that a name for the lodge be selected by ballot. it resulted in favor of calling it Elmo Lodge of Perfection, Number 9.” Genealogical information about the word states that “Elmo ‘means’ amiable” and St. Elmo was the patron saint of sailors. History shows that St. Elmo was an Italian martyr killed in 303 A.D.
Brother E. T. Carr. 33˚ Inspector General for Kansas, met with the brethren on June 9, 1887 and inaugurated the Lodge with the following Charter members, all 32˚: J. S. Cole, E. Goldberg, S. H. Horner, S. T. Tuttle, J. L. Boyd. J. W. Shults, Charles Ballance, Robert H. Smith, O. F. Hood, H. C. Gager and J. T. Sargent.
Proudfoot and Bird Build a Landmark
The year 1887 was a turbulent, exciting time in Wichita. The population was increasing steadily as new waves of settlers moved in from the East. Construction of new buildings was occurring at a dizzying pace. Hardly a week would pass when the planning or construction of a new building was not announced or begun. Because of the hectic pace of building and development and the opportunities such activities presented, it was inevitable that Wichita would receive an influx of individuals who hoped to capitalize on the situation. Among the speculators, builders, developers and would-be land barons were two young architects whose work would materially affect the appearance of the city.
It was in the spring of 1885 that twenty-five-year-old Willis Proudfoot left Philadelphia and came to Wichita to establish an architectural practice. Records are unclear as to the exact nature and extent of his educational training and experience. Apparently, he did take a course in architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, but whether or not he was a college graduate is unknown. It is likely, however, that he was not because he began his architectural practice at the age of twenty. It may be that George Bird. Proudfoot’s partner-to-be, came to Wichita at the same time, but that record, too, is unclear. Proudfoot’s name was listed alone in the 1885 City Directory. The 1886 Directory listed both names together as an architectural firm; a similar listing appeared annually through 1890. The 1891 edition of the City Directory listed only Proudfoot’s name. After 1891, there was no listing of either man.
Very little is known about George Bird’s educational background. There is no record of any formal training in architecture, but he did work in a woodworking mill in Philadelphia, perhaps in a capacity that required draftsmanship. It appears logical to assume that Bird gravitated to the profession of architecture as a result of his bent for draftsmanship and his acquaintanceship with Proudfoot.
The Proudfoot and Bird firm entered quickly into the planning and construction activities that were so characteristic of Wichita during this period. Their architectural practice was as diversified; official records show the firm involved in the planning of commercial buildings, factories, public schools, universities, a municipal building, churches, and residences. Two striking examples of the houses designed by the firm were the residences that Proudfoot and Bird themselves occupied.
Newspaper accounts document the frenzied pace at which construction activities were occurring during the late 1880s. During the period between May 10, 1887, and September 29, 1887, the Proudfoot and Bird architectural firm was involved in the planning or construction of twenty-nine projects: two banks, thirteen commercial buildings, three university projects, three public schools, six residences, one factory, and the YMCA building.
As was inevitable, the building period with its inflated values and vision and dreams slowed dramatically. By 1888, some of the eastern investors had lost their willingness to recklessly speculate in Wichita real estate. Grandiose projects such as the Watch Factory and Judson University hardly got beyond the promotional stage with only minimal excavation and foundation work being accomplished at the two sites.
From Wichita, Proudfoot and Bird moved to Salt Lake City, where they teamed up with a local architect to design a large city and county building. They stayed in Utah for about five years. In 1896, Proudfoot moved back to Philadelphia; however, by 1900 they were back together practicing architecture in Iowa. They practiced in Iowa for the remainder of their professional careers, designing numerous buildings on the Iowa State Campus at Ames. George Bird retired from the architectural firm in 1916, moving to California where he lived until he died in 1956, at age ninety-nine. Willis Proudfoot continued practicing architecture in Des Moines until he was stricken by strokes and died in 1928 at the age of sixty-eight.
During their stint in Wichita, Proudfoot and Bird designed many buildings, most of which have been demolished in the intervening years. There are, however, still at least nine of those old structures that are still extant in Wichita. They are the old Wichita City Hall; Garfield University, now Friends; McCormick Elementary School; Riverside Cottage, 901 North Spaulding; Johnson Cottage, 133 South Charles; Fairmount Cottage, 1717 North Fairmount; Hillside Cottage which was Proudfoot’s home, 303 Circle Drive; the Aviary, which was Bird’s home, 330 Circle Drive, and the YMCA Building which was eventually purchased, remodeled, and expanded by the Scottish Rite Masonic Bodies. The following account appeared in the Sept. 22, 1887, edition of the Wichita Morning Eagle:
“Some days ago the bids for erecting the Y.M.C.A. building were opened in the office of architects Proudfoot and Bird. There were a number of bids, and some of them very nearly the same figure. The contract was yesterday awarded to Mr. O’Neal, of Leavenworth. He is to do all the stone work and wood work, and finishing for $36,000.00. It was first intended that the building should be of brick with heavy stone trimmings, but it has been decided to use no brick, and make it a solid stone building. The contract calls for the completion of the basement, first and second stories. Mr. O’Neal will commence work as soon as possible. The stone and other building material will be ordered immediately, and it is thought that the building, as contracted, will be completed by first of January next.”
From YMCA to Scottish Rite Center
Records indicate that the final cost of the YMCA was $60,000, far in excess of the $36,000 that was anticipated. The YMCA organization occupied the building for several years but eventually was forced to sell it, probably because of the collapse of the real estate boom. The resultant loss of financial support for the YMCA would eventually lead to the purchase of this “prime property” by the Scottish Rite Masonic Bodies.
In 1887, prior to this acquisition, the Bodies of the Scottish Rite labored zealously from rented rooms on the third floor of the Hacker & Johnson Block, 503 East Douglas Avenue. The work of the organization was difficult under these circumstances for it was performed without proper costumes, equipment, or facilities to render the sublime teachings of the several degrees in an efficient and credible manner.
In the month of January 1891, the Bodies of the Rite purchased the Baptist Church Property at the corner of Market and First Streets. This acquisition represented a significant opportunity for the growth and prosperity of the organization and the addition of proper facilities and equipment to the tenacity and determination of the membership proved to be a potent combination. During this period membership within the Rite expanded from 119 in October of 1891 to 341 in November, 1896. By January of 1898, the quarters that helped to fuel this development were found to be inadequate. During this period, the real estate market in Wichita was at an all-time low and the YMCA building, the current home of the Scottish Rite Bodies of Wichita, was on the market at a substantially lower price than its actual worth. The Bodies purchased the YMCA building and immediately began planning a remodeling project that included stage and scenery in an auditorium with a seating capacity of 300. These improvements provided the fraternity with a truly magnificent facility that has served the Scottish Rite and the community for nearly a century. The cornerstone for the new addition was laid by the Grand Lodge A.F. & A .M. of Kansas on April 22, 1907 with the appropriate ceremonies. On the evening of May 30, 1908, the Temple was opened to the Masons of Wichita and their families to show them one of the most richly furnished and elaborate buildings for this purpose in the country.
The Temple was formally dedicated on the evening of June 8, 1908, By Grand Commander James D. Richardson, 33˚. Several members of the Supreme Council and other dignitaries from different parts of the country were in attendance. June 8, 10, and 11, Degrees 4 through 32 were conferred. Five hundred and twenty-nine Master Masons of this Jurisdiction applied for and were elected to receive these Degrees at that time. These degrees were delivered in strict accordance with the Ritual and made a lasting impression on candidates and visitors alike. This phenomenal class was the subject of much comment in Masonic circles and the Grand Commander devoted much space to it in his Allocution the following year.
Becoming a Member
Up until 1912, the Degrees of the Scottish Rite were largely communicated by lecture, with only a very few being dramatized. In considering plans for a new and larger Temple and believing that the Scottish Rite Degrees had greater potential for more elaborate dramatization, a committee was appointed to study this possibility. Serving on this committee were Brother’s Bestor G. Brown and Henry Wallenstein, of Wichita, and Charles E. Rosenbaum, of Little Rock, Arkansas, who, after months of study and research, conferring with like committees from other Scottish Rite Bodies, and collaboration with scenic artists and costume manufacturers, developed the dramatic and elaborate stage effects which are still used today in the presentation of Degrees in this Valley.
During this period in Valley history the membership was constantly augmented by classes usually numbering from one to two hundred at each convocation. By the annual report of July 1, 1912, there were between 2,900 and 3,000 members on the rolls, making The Valley of Wichita, numerically, the largest Scottish Rite Body in the Southern Jurisdiction. From this point the membership experienced steady growth until the time of the first World War, a period when many men sought the inspiration, strength, and unity of action that Masonry is uniquely equipped to provide. The number of men seeking greater light in the Scottish Rite Degrees increased until when, in the fall of 1919, 629 Master Masons applied for and received the Degrees of the Wichita Consistory. This was one of the largest classes ever to receive these beautiful Degrees at one reunion.
The membership continued to increase until December 1921, when it numbered more than 7,000. At this level of community involvement, the Wichita Consistory had become the largest membership in the Southern Jurisdiction of the Scottish Rite, which encompasses all of the states south of the old “Mason-Dixon Line” and West of the Mississippi River. This territory is comprised of fully three fourths of the United States, including Hawaii and the U.S. Territories.
Applicants for the degrees of Scottish Rite Freemasonry must be Master Masons in good Standing in a recognized Blue Lodge and are required to have been residents of this state for at least six months prior to the date of petition. Additionally, ”Every member…must be and maintain an affiliated Master Mason in good standing in a regular Symbolic Lodge”. Brethren who have received some of the degrees but have not attained the 32˚ will be given the opportunity to advance with a class.
The Scottish Rite Bodies of Wichita have continued to grow and prosper in this modern age. On September 20th, 1997 a new organization specifically for 32˚ Scottish Rite Masons was chartered by the Guthrie, Oklahoma Consistory. Called the Scottish Knights of St. Andrew, the organization serves in ceremonial, social, and charitable capacities within the Consistory and is open only to 32˚ Masons. Once a Knight of St. Andrew becomes honored with a higher status, he becomes a member emeritus and loses the right to participate in the business of the organization. The Knights of St. Andrew are quickly becoming an important part of Scottish Rite Freemasonry in the Wichita Valley, once again proving that the fundamental nature of Masonry is to build and nurture those qualities in men that will make them better citizens, husbands, and fathers.
The regular meetings of Elmo Lodge of Perfection are held on the first Tuesday of each month at 7:30 P.M. All business conducted in Elmo lodge of Perfection constitutes business in the other three coordinate bodies. Reunions are held two times yearly. While all Degrees from the fourth through the thirty-second are conferred, only certain ones are dramatized.
Throughout the history of degree conferral at the Wichita Scottish Rite classes have had similar organization and work, the nature of the class structure has undergone some change. In 1946, for instance, class officers included a president; first, second, and third vice presidents; secretary, and treasurer. For a period of time, in addition to a class director, committees functioned for class name and motto, class memorial, class history, class resolutions, class music, class roster and officers, class reunion, and class orator. These committees ceased to exist when a formally published class roster was discontinued.
Supporting each class are the individuals who serve as officers and trustees in the Scottish Rite Bodies of Wichita, members of the Advisory Council, and as members of the following committees; Reception, Visitation, Fraternal Relations (Mentors for class members), and Director of The Work Staff which includes; Wardrobe, Stage Crew, Rituals (Light and Sound), Actors and Prompters.
See the Membership Page for information about joining the Wichita Scottish Rite.
Wichita’s Most Beautiful Building
The Scottish Rite Temple continues to be a remarkable addition to a rejuvenated downtown area. Its uniqueness and value to the architecture of Wichita was demonstrated in 1972 when it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places of America. The building in its several aspects is intricately detailed. A prominent feature is the battlemented tower with iron grillwork and stained glass windows. The roof line is a mélange of tall chimneys, stone spires, and peaked roofs. The south entrance is arched and topped by a bay window featuring stained glass. Particularly attractive are the finely carved circular gray stones above the first floor windows. It is also significant and important that the building has been, and continues to be, maintained in excellent condition solely through the efforts and donations of its membership.
The interior of the building is an eye-catching mixture of the ornate and opulent. The Egyptian Room hints at the mysteries of ancient Pharaohs and the morning light cascading into the Crystal Room is a scintillating experience. The Library offers the staid sedateness of a London men’s club. The Auditorium rivals the opulence of the world’s finest opera houses and provides stage, scenery, and lighting opportunities that any Broadway producer would be happy to have at his disposal. In all, the interior spaces are elaborately finished. The other pages of this virtual tour demonstrate the intricate, interrelated spaces that make up the Wichita Scottish Rite Temple.
For Honor, For Life
And so, throughout the ensuing years, through challenges to membership during the trying times of World War I, the Great Depression of the 30’s, the sacrifices made during World War II, the Cold War Years, and into the uncertainties of the “Brave New World” of the 60’s through the 90’s, the Wichita Scottish Rite has strived to offer good men of this community an organization based upon a belief in God – in the traditional meanings of being a good husband, a good father, a good employee or employer. This Scottish Rite has challenged its members to live up the standards and values society expects of its “builders”.
Most recently, our Wichita Scottish Rite Masonic Center (as it is now called, reflecting a resource for both fraternity and community) is involved in renovating our historic exterior and interior, as we invite the community to use this historic landmark. Many private and civic groups are taking advantage of having events such as corporate meetings, company and club dinners, and weddings and receptions. Fortunately, the Wichita Scottish Rite is still at the center of our thriving Wichita community, sharing a rejuvenated downtown with “Old Town”, the Orpheum Theatre, and many other entities returning to our collective community roots.
Our membership of 2,100 Scottish Rite Masons invites you to take part in our active and ongoing history. Special tours of our 120 year-old Landmark will be offered during the December Open House. Scheduling your event may be arranged by contacting our Event Coordinator at (316) 263-4218. Since 1887, and looking with excitement to the future, The Wichita Scottish Rite of Freemasonry stands as a testimony to those best and time-tested values embraced by all people of good will in our wonderful community.
In this spirit, we are proud to share our history…and our future!