It’s one of the 150 Best Buildings and Places in NJ, a venue where national and international entertainers regularly perform, and it’s right in our backyard.
Now the is looking for help from its neighbors to refresh its majestic exterior.
“We’re trying to reach out to the community to help us with this historic landmark, our beautiful venue,” said Scottish Rite Director Jerry Chambers.
“We’re trying to find people with professional skills and an interest in the place.”
At 7 p.m. this evening, the facility will host a general interest meeting to try to recruit volunteers who can lend a hand maintaining the building and its grounds.
Maintenance is quite a task. Chambers is looking for skilled volunteers who can lend a hand with painting, plumbing, woodworking, and plaster work inside the auditorium as well as landscapers and community organizers.
“The building is 80 years to the plus,” he said. “It’s built well, it just needs help.”
The Scottish Rite was constructed in 1931 by Freemasons in the depths of the Great Depression—paid for in cash—and has never had a mortgage, said Chambers.
The only time the public was allowed in the building was on Palm Sunday, when the Masons would put on an Easter Passion play. Other than that, it was a private place where they performed their degrees (theatrical performances of biblical events).
“People joke about the Masons being a secret society,” Chambers said, “but they’re a society with secrets.”
The fortress-like construction of the Scottish Rite held true for years after. It was even used as a local fallout shelter during the Cold War. In 2003, the Borough of Collingswood negotiated a 50-year lease on the property, then began renovating the ballroom to host weddings, corporate events, and galas starting in 2004.
“It’s quite a diverse venue,” Chambers said. “We could have [comedian] Gallagher here one night, then a play, a ballet, and a full-blown concert all in one week. Your head twists as to what am I doing next?”
Chambers said he hopes the renovation efforts will help instill a contagious sense of civic pride in the facility and its events.
“We’re truly blessed to have this [venue],” he said. “I feel [the Scottish Rite] is a catalyst for the arts and the whole neighborhood itself. It’s a very positive thing.”
Can't make it tonight, but still want to contribute to the Scottish Rite cleanup? Call 856-858-1000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.