Cathedral History



Dallas Morning News
April 26, 1913

Masonic Cathedral is Fully Described
Architect Green Recites the Beauties and Comforts of Scottish Rite Building.

Many Unique Effects

Constellations in Ceiling Show in Darkness - Various Styles of Architecture Used

In noble and monumental grandeur, its magnificent Corinthian frontage on Harwood Street, one of the most impressive architectural sights of the South, the recently completed Dallas Scottish Rite Cathedral, stands as the finest building in the world devoted exclusively to Scottish Rite Masonry, and the third finest Masonic building in the United States.

The mere recital of its estimated completion cost, $330,000 affords but inadequately an appraisement of the care and thought and skill used in its conception and creation and of the rare success with which those plans have been fulfilled.

The imposing external beauty of the Cathedral constitutes a congruous covering for the veritable wealth of diversified charm found in the exterior. Architectural development from the greatest of the Egyptian Kings to the Colonial of today is represented in the treatment of virtues of the important rooms and halls. For instance, on the first floor one will find the purest classical style in the Statuary Hall. The Renaissance in the amethyst parlor, modified Gothic in the alluring library soft in tones of brown and red. Ionic in the office of Sovereign Grand Inspector General In Texas, Sam P. Cochran, 33°, Dutch in the social and Billiard rooms. And in the glittering banquet room, scintillating with a unique system of cut crystal chandeliers, the ever-fascinating Louis XVI period is produced in a delicate profusion of ivory and soft rose. This beautiful banquet room is the largest in the South or West, and has a seating capacity of 1,100.

Modern Conveniences

On the second floor one will find the lobby, which is in Roman Ionic; the Corinthian lodge room is green and gold: candidates lounging room, modified Colonial with color scheme of brown and blue and smoking foyer in the same effect. In the great degree room are columns copied from those in the Temple of Karnak at Thebes . Over sixty shades of color are used harmoniously in the ornamental beams and columns supporting the ceiling of sky blue - a ceiling whereon the stars of the twelve signs of the Zodiac are so cunningly constructed, and with such ingenious electrical attachments that when the great hall is in total darkness, the constellations seem to blaze in all reality from the very heavens above.

The largest stage in Texas is in this degree room - and the largest pipe organ in. There are offices restrooms, wardrobe rooms, bowling alley, grill and kitchen - heating, ventilating and lighting systems which are unsurpassed, push button elevator and house telephone system - In short every device by which modern ingenuity can add to beauty and comfort and convenience. This resume seeks only to deal in generalities. One should read the detailed description which follows to form some conception of the splendor of the edifice.

Herbert M. Greene, the architect, and who for many months has given almost uninterruptedly his constant attention to the supervision of all the details of the building, in describing it, says:

Time of Building

"Few, if any, buildings in the South represent an accomplishment more complete, thorough or beautiful than the Dallas Scottish Rite Cathedral on South Harwood street. Massive in size, noble in proportions, beautiful in decoration and ornament, it represents an achievement because beauty and utility have been combined in formulating the finest exclusive Scottish Rite Cathedral in the world and the third finest Masonic building in the ."

"The building has a frontage of 144 feet on Harwood Street and a depth of 115 feet. The front portion being two stories, the rear three stories in height, in addition to a spacious basement under the entire building."

"The external treatment of the building is in the Corinthian style of architecture, the walls being of mottled dark gray brick, with deeply raked out joints, and of Stamford buff limestone, the mass of the stone predominating to such an extent that it can be said the building is of stone inlaid with brick, each material adding, by contrast, to the effect of the other. The stone quorms of the external corners are repeated in the treatment of the windows, the first story windows being flanked by Doric pilasters, which in turn support stone arches forming the transoms. The windows of the second and third stories are bordered by molded and quormed stone frames, the second story windows being further enriched by stone balconies. Sixty-one carloads of stone were required and used in the front and side entrances of the building."

Portico Required Labor

"A fixed law of the Greeks and Romans was that a Corinthian portion, without pedestals, should have a sub base or other equally heavy treatment under the mass of the pier. This has been accomplished in the Cathedral Building by a sub-treatment, the external walls of which are molded in brick and stone and runs to a height of seven feet above the grade. To further accentuate the mass treatment there is a flight of three, five and seven steps, fifty-eight feet in length on the Harwood street front of the building. They have wide platforms between each flight, with the large brick and stone buttresses at each end. In fulfilling the requirements of the ancients, a splendid setting and approach was obtained for the imposing portico that graces the Harwood street front, constituting the crowning architectural beauty of the building. This portico, impressive in size and splendid in its proportions, is supported by six three-foot diameter Corinthian stone columns, thirty feet and ten inches in height, each with molded base and carved capital. The shafts of the columns were fluted by hand, each column having twenty-four deeply cut flutes with perfect edges. So strict were the requirements that over half the stone for these columns was rejected on account of slight damage to the edges. Much of the beauty of the portico lies in the richly carved capitals crowning each column. The stone was obtained from Bedford, Indiana and was roughly blocked out by stonemasons, each capital requiring the services of two masons for a period of nearly two weeks. The capitals were then raised into place and were later on carved out leaf by leaf and volute by volute by Peter Facin, 32o (now deceased), whose genius and skill can be found in the carving on many important buildings in the North and East. The time consumed in the final carving was from thirty to thirty-five days to each capital and the entire cost of each completed column was over eleven hundred dollars."

"A terra cotta cornice extends across the front and both sides of the building, and over the entire portico is a stone balustrade in the center of which has been placed a large double-headed stone eagle, standing 7 feet 6 inches in height and eight feet across from wing to wing.

Statuary Hall Described

"As is customary in buildings of monumental character, Statuary Hall on the first floor is treated in classical style. This hall, 22 feet wide and 72 feet long, is in the Roman Denticular Doric order, the details and proportions being from the Theater of Marcellus at Rome . Entrance to it is obtained through the three large portico doors into the vestibule and thence through the main stair hall. The ceiling is bordered and paneled with Doric beams and cornices, the beams being supported where they intersect the cornice, with English vein Italian Marble pilasters having marble capitals and molded beams. The side walls between the pilasters have a wainscot of the same marble, five feet high with cap, each piece being matched to those surrounding it in order to secure an artistic effect in the veining. Above the wainscot cap and between the pilasters the walls have been colored in the same delicate shades of gray as the veins of the marble. The floor is finished with six-inch square white tile with wide gray tile joints the gray veins of the marble."

"To the left of Statuary Hall is the parlor, 32 x 29 feet, designed in the Renaissance style. The doors and windows are framed with Ionic pilasters and are connected on all walls by a paneled wood dado. A plaster cornice encircles the entire room forming a frame to what is conceded to be the most beautiful of the many ornamental ceilings in the building. A highly ornate mantel is placed between the windows on the Harwood street wall, the other sides of the room being paneled above the dado with Renaissance moldings forming narrow and wide panels. The color scheme is in shades of pale amethyst in Tiffany effect. A darker shade of amethyst is carried out in the Witton velvet rug and silk velour curtains with embroidered valences which drape the windows and doors. Real gold has been lavishly used on the pilaster capitals and on the pilaster moldings of the walls and ceilings to accentuate the rich and delicate treatment that has been obtained. Chairs and divans of mahogany, covered with tapestry in shades of gray, amethyst and gold complete the furnishings of the room with the exception of four crystal sunburst chandeliers suspended from gold plated frames. The woodwork is ivory white with gold plated hardware and the floor of highly polished oak."

Beautiful Color Schemes

"Connected to the parlor is a ladies’ retiring room with white woodwork and oak floor. Mirrors are placed on all walls and the toilet accommodations are complete."

"At the North end of Statuary Hall and separated from it by a spacious anteroom is the office of the Sovereign Grand Inspector General of Texas , Samuel Poynts Cochran, 33o. The treatment of this room is in the Doric style, the same wood dado is used in place of the marble wainscoting. The color scheme, a soft olive green, is carried out in harmonious tones in the Wilton Velvet rug and the green and gold brocade coverings of the mahogany furniture. The window curtains are in iridescent green and are draped close to the hardwood floor."

"In the Southwest corner of the building is the Library, 32x29 feet, the treatment of which is in a modified Gothic style. The sidewalls are paneled in dark cathedral oak to height of eight feet, the top moldings forming a Gothic cove. The upper part of the wainscoting has four Gothic cusps, forming symmetrical paneled quatrefoils. Similar cusps with deep Gothic moldings, all highly enriched, are used in the quatrefoil plaster panels of the ceiling, all forming a bold and unusual treatment. The color treatment of the walls and ceilings which is brown, blends in perfect harmony with the old red velour draperies and the oriental reds in the large Axminster rug. Two large Gothic reading tables with chairs are placed symmetrically in the room, and these, with the writing desk and large leather armchairs complete the furniture equipment, all of which was specially designed and built to order in Boston, Mass. The room is lighted by semi-indirect opaque glass bowls attached to Gothic bands of bronze, which are supported by bronze chains attached to the intersections of the ceiling panels.

Office is Gothic

"The secretary’s office is separated from the library by a gothic area with an oak railing. The office is in turn separated from the south vestibule by a counter extending the full length of the office. The treatment and furnishings of both vestibule and secretary’s office are in the Gothic style as in the library."

"A wide passage leads from the library to the social and billiard rooms, which are located in the southeast corner of the building. This passage has walls paneled in Spanish leather and doors leading into Statuary Hall."

"The social and billiard rooms, 33x50 feet are very plain but rich in treatment. A Dutch style has been used, the ceilings being beamed in oak and the sidewalls paneled in the same material to a height of eight feet. The plastered walls and ceilings are treated in a soft buff, Tiffany effect, and are ornamented with simple but appropriate hand frescoes. The woodwork has been finished in an entirely new and original manner, being a reversal of ordinary methods. The furniture in the social room consists of game tables and easy chairs. The billiard room, which is practically a part of the social room is equipped with a pool and billiard table of the highest grade, finished to mach the woodwork of the room.

The Banquet Room

"In the east and north end of the first floor, and occupying a space of 60x104 feet is the largest banquet room in the South or Southwest, seating about eleven hundred. In keeping with the use to which it is put, it is without question the most gorgeous room in the building. The lavish ornaments in Louis XVI style have been beautifully brought out in shades of ivory and delicate rose. Columns at regular intervals support highly ornamental ceiling beams that parallel both directions of the room, forming large panels nearly twenty feet square. In these panels have been molded and planted a wealth of ornament rich in detail and correct in design. The sidewalls are paneled in similar manner, the panels being in a rich rose color. It is impossible to describe adequately the richness of the treatment in this room, which compares favorably with the famous banquet halls of the North and East.

"A new system of shower lighting has been used that is novel and very effective. In the corner of each of the eighteen ceiling panels a shower fixture has been placed, consisting of three drop lights surrounded by cut crystals and suspended by silver plated tubes, covered with glass and decorated at regular intervals with silver balls. The canopy is of composition molded and painted to match the ornaments of the ceiling. Each center of three drops is knit together into one fixture by ropes of cut crystals from each of which hang cut glass pendalegues. The effect is so successful that by day or night, and from every part of the room, rays of light of all the colors of the rainbow are thrown off in all directions giving a gorgeous effect that has never before been obtained. The floors of the room are highly polished and the thousand chairs that surround the walls are birch mahoganized

Stairways are Artistic

"There are two flights of stairs, joining each other at a platform and from thence continuing as a single stairway ten feet in width. These stairs are of bronze and marble and wind around the side walls of the entrance lobby giving access direct from the Statuary Hall to the second floor lobby, the treatment of which is the same in color and materials as Statuary Hall, except the style is Roman Ionic, taken from the second order of the Theater of Marcellus."

"On the north of this lobby is a coat and ante-room with walls of leather and mahogany. From this room, direct passage is had to the large 24x29 foot Corinthian Lodge Room of Dallas Consistory. A paneled birch dado encircles the room and on each of the sidewalls are placed the raised platform for the stations of the lodge officers. These are of pilasters and columns supporting Corinthian pediments that rise to a height of nearly twelve feet. The ceiling is in high relief, the ornaments being tipped with gold. A green color scheme has been worked out. The dark green silk velour curtains and the Wilton velvet rug, matching perfectly the mahogany furniture trimmed in green Spanish leather."

"Attached to the lodge room is an examination room with the same color treatment, also a committee room, the treatment of which is in tones of brown."

Apartments for Candidates

"In the southwest corner of the second floor is the candidates’ lounging room, 18x48 feet in size, with woodwork of brown mahogany. The sidewalls to height of nearly nine feet are paneled in brown Spanish leather and the ceiling is ornamented with plaster relief, bordered with an ornamental plaster cornice. The style of the room is a modified Colonial and the color treatment in brown and old blue, the blue being carefully worked out in the Axminster rug and the window draperies."

"Connected to the candidates’ room is a well-appointed room for the class director and his assistants, and beyond this room is the candidates’’ smoking foyer. 18x48 feet with walls of brown Spanish leather and mahogany. Inglenooks having seats and leather emblems, Chinese grass furniture and a two tone Wilton carpet complete the furniture of this room, the same effect being obtained in the class director’s room adjoining."

"To the east of the second floor lobby is the large degree room, within the walls of which are conferred the degrees of the rite. This room is 60x125 feet in size and has a ceiling height of thirty feet. The style is Egyptian, the large engaged columns being copied from those in the great Temple of Karnak at Thebes . Across the south end of this room is a gallery for members, seating more than three hundred. Under this gallery is the candidates’ smoking foyer, previously described, which is separated from the main floor of the degree room by a small lobby, with leather covered doors. The ceiling of the degree room is divided by large beams into five panels, the beams and the engaged columns supporting them being highly ornamental. Over sixty shades of colors were used in their decoration, all of which were so disposed as to produce a harmonious effect.

Starry Night Effect

"The large flat ceilings between the beams are colored a deep blue and over their surfaces are represented the stars of the twelve constellations of the Zodiac and the planets of our solar system. All stars in these constellations from the first to the seventh magnitude are represented in gold, in their correct positions. In the center of all from the first to the sixth magnitude are placed discs of ground glass, corresponding to the size of the star, and above the ceiling in the attic, a system of electric lights with reflectors. When the degree room is in total darkness, and the attic lights turned on, the effect reproduces the starry sky manner."

"To the north of the degree room and on a dark night in an almost perfect separated from it by a proscenium arch 28x22 feet is the largest stage in Texas , 24 feet deep and 60 feet in width. One hundred and nineteen scenic drops are so delicately counterweighted that the stage picture can be changed in two seconds, and if necessary in the dark. These drops are hung over the entire ceiling of the stage, being spaced three inches apart from the proscenium arch to the rear wall of the stage. Each degree has its own scenery, some degrees three and four scenes, all forming an extensive and complete equipment that it is possible to produce more different scenes than on any stage in the country. Fifteen hundred white, blue, red and amber lights, controlled from a switchboard seven feet high and twelve feet long are required to light the stage properly. These are subdued and softened as necessary by bank after bank of dimmers arranged by interlocking devices to control the degree of light at any one point of en masse. The dawn of day, a nightfall or a moonlight effect can be reproduced with marvelous fidelity."

"On either side of the proscenium opening, is chambers formed by cutting off the corners of the degree room has been placed the magnificent concert pipe organ, a description of which is given elsewhere. As music constitutes a feature of many of the degrees, a large singing gallery have been provided on the third floor, having large openings into the degree room. These openings are fitted with a series of movable shutters that are controlled from the stage and allow the singing to be heard in the degree room without the singers seeing into it or themselves being seen, producing a perfect ‘choir invisible’ effect.

"To the rear of the stage are property rooms, etc. and on the third floor a large wardrobe room, with cases for the various costumes.

Basement is Unique

"In the front of the basement, which is under the entire building, has been located a completely equipped double bowling alley, with ample space for spectators, a grill room capable of seating sixty, and space for the checking of 1,100 hats and coats.

"The northeast part of the basement contains a large kitchen, having a battery of six steel ranges and in close connection, ample preparation, serving and dish washing rooms. The remainder of the basement contains the boiler and coal room, a large room for the waiters, storage rooms and the janitor’s apartments.

Fine Service Equipment

"The service equipment of the building is complete to the smallest detail. A push button elevator of the latest type gives access to all floors from the basement to the third floor.

"The building is heated by the modulation system of steam heat arranged to give heat in the exact quantity required. The library and parlor have direct and indirect steam heat, and the banquet and degree rooms are heated by the direct steam method supplemented by an indirect blast system that is capable of furnishing ample fresh air when the building is crowded.

"Nine rooms are allotted for the teller accommodations, some having shower and tub baths, hot water for these being furnished automatically."

"In addition to the hot blast system of heating for the degree room and entirely separate aspiration system of air removal has been provided for warm weather. An immense double sirocco fan located in the attic has ample capacity to change the air in the degree room every six minutes, eliminating all danger from impure air."

Items of Cost

"Among the other convenient equipment installations are the vacuum system of cleaning, house telephone system, a complete system of electric call bells and porcelain bubble drinking fountains.

"The complete cost of the building has not been, as yet, made public but it is expected to be close to $230,000. Other items not included in the building cost are:

Organ$23,000.00
Stage Scenery$28,000.00
Furnishings $21,000.00
Ground $34,000.00

Making an estimated cost of the complete equipment of about $350,000.

"It is expected that in the near future, the organ will be formally dedicated by an organist of National reputation in a series of two or three concerts at which time the public will have the privilege of inspecting the beauties of the entire building.