A behind-the-scenes look at an unusual Oakland landmark is on tap for June 29.
Reservations are required for the tour of the Oakland Scottish Rite Center on Lakeside Drive, sponsored by the Oakland Heritage Alliance. More details are available at the organization's website, www.oaklandheritage.org. The two-hour tour begins at 10 a.m.
The Scottish Rite Masons can trace their Oakland roots back to 1883, and the current building has stood at its lakeside location since 1927.
The 110-foot-tall granite-faced front facade edifice has a steel frame with concrete and exterior brick walls. Inside are many opulent, noteworthy features, including a multistory-high auditorium with seating for 1,400, and a grand ballroom that accommodates 1,000.
Architect Carl Werner (1875-1943) used Italian Renaissance and Spanish-Moorish influences for the various lodge rooms, receiving halls and members-only lounges in the building. Many of the original furnishings, lighting fixtures and library collections are still contained within its walls.
The mammoth auditorium stage, with its handcrafted intricately stitched curtains, has the capacity to present pageants that celebrate the doctrine of the Scottish Rite, the highest level of freemasonry. Many of these doctrines can be traced back to mid-18th century Paris. Traditionally, only accepted members of the order could see and take part in the pageants.
In the 1950s, the center's membership topped 9,000 individuals, all men. Today, membership is closer to 3,000. Over the years, political leaders such as Gov. George Pardee (who also served as Oakland mayor) belonged to the Scottish Rite.
The center continues to be used for the traditional historic fraternal rites; in addition, it also serves as an event center that accommodates business meetings, weddings, receptions, concerts and performances.
A photo gallery of the public rooms can be viewed on the center's website, www.scottrite.com.
Another interesting fact about the facility is that it went green in 2005. It now operates entirely on solar energy and has the largest private solar electrical cogeneration system in the city.
The Oakland Heritage Alliance also has announced the tours for its Summer Walks series. The tours are offered on Saturdays and Sundays in July and August.
The first walk is "The Legacy of the Poet of the Sierras, Joaquin Miller," led by Linda Brown on July 6. Details are available at www.oaklandheritage.org. Or call 510-763-9218 to request a copy of the Tour Brochure.