Temple For Performing Arts, 1011 Locust Street, Des Moines, Iowa
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HISTORY BEHIND THE TEMPLE


From the turning of the first spade of dirt in 1911 to its completion in May 1913, the Masonic Temple captivated Des Moines. Newspapers chronicled its rise, detailing benchmark construction events as well as Masonic skirmishes over the building's size and position within the group's hierarchy. As news of the building's importance spread, throngs of spectators crowded the streets in 1912 when the Temple's calvary and high command laid the building's cornerstone in an auspicious display of pomp and circumstance.

Initially designed by Proudfoot, Bird & Rawson with a footprint of 88 feet by 132 feet, not long before the groundbreaking, the Masons voted to increase the size to one-quarter block. The vote was expensive one that boost the price tag for the building from $80,000 to approximately $190,000. Noted for the opulence of its Grand Lodge with intricate moldings, faux marble columns and elaborate stained glass windows The Temple represented a bold feat in architecture and engineering with two 4,000-square-foot ballrooms stacked one on top of the other in the center of the structure.

As one of the city's most important buildings of the time, The Temple courted important tenants. A dealership that sold Maxwell automobiles was one of the first occupants. By far, the most enduring tenant was the Des Moines Water Works. The Water Works started out with a small part of the first floor in 1917, and by 1981 occupied nearly all the Temple's leased office space. By the time the Water Works vacated the building in 1987, The Temple had long since been eclipsed in significance and stature by modern high rises of tinted glass and granite.

In an effort to make the space more energy efficient, the 15-foot ceilings were lowered in a remodeling that chipped away at the building's rich, historic legacy. More than once, The Temple faced demolition and more than once it escaped.

In 1997, the Temple was added to the National Historic Register, but even this designation did not necessarily guarantee the Temple's salvation from the wrecking ball. The building occupies prime space in the city's Western Gateway Plan and many other structures within the area were earmarked for demolition. In the spring of 2001, Harry Bookey, a life-long Des Moines native and successful real estate developer, and Pamela Bass-Bookey, a Des Moines resident known for her passion for arts and downtown revitalization, proposed a plan for restoring the Temple.

After careful review, the Des Moines City Council selected Bookey's group, Downtown Preservation Partners, LLC, as the project developer. Renamed The Temple for Performing Arts, the developers are unlocking the secrets and majesty of one of Des Moines' most celebrated buildings and transforming it into a 21st century venue for performing arts, culture entertainment and learning.

 


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