The Masonic Temple, also known as The Concert Hall, is located at 888 Yonge St (at Davenport Rd on the northwest corner) in the Yorkville neighbourhood of Toronto.
The Architecture of the Masonic Temple
The Masonic Temple was designed by the architectural firm William F Sparling & Co for the Grand Lodge of Ancient and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario. Construction began in 1916. The following year, WH Wardrope KC Grand Master laid the cornerstone at the new temple, with the Grand Lodge marching in procession to the ceremony.
Combining several Masonic lodges, the Masonic Temple was opened on Jan 1, 1918.
The landmark is on a uniquely shaped site and set close to the street. The Renaissance Revival style, a six-storey building, is rich with Classical motifs. The Masonic Temple is made of reinforced steel and tile. The structure is organized into three levels. Its base is clad with Indiana limestone and features patterned brick panels. A tapestry brick shaft follows that. To top off, the Masonic Temple is a stone cornice with mouldings and dentils below the brick parapet. Its distinctive round corner has stone panels with sculpted Masonic symbols.
The building’s public entrance is on the east side via Yonge St. Recessed behind three round-arched portals supported by Doric columns is a staircase and doors leading to the main floor auditorium. Crowning the east entrance is a set-in balcony with a Palladian-styled opening.
On the structure’s south façade, there are two entrances via Davenport Rd. Members entered from this side. On both the south and east side are flat-headed window openings. Some are blind, some are open, and others have steel sash and wire glass.
Inside the Landmark
The main floor features a foyer, lobby and an auditorium. With its ornate stage, decorated ceiling beans, gallery seating in the mezzanine level and a capacity of 1200 seats, the auditorium was built to rent out the space for events and performances to help with operating costs.
The upper floors were sectioned into lodge rooms. Two patterned tile floors with Masonic symbols have survived, including the Blue Lodge Room on the second floor and the Scottish Rite and Preceptory Room on the third floor. The hardware and millwork in the upper two floors also feature Masonic emblems.
On to Music History…
In the early 1960s, the auditorium became home to various concert venues, the first being Club 888. In 1968, the “above ground home for underground music” became The Rock Pile, opening with Blood Sweat and Tears. It could hold 3,200 people with upstairs seating for 600. Other groups that played at the club included Led Zeppelin, the Jeff Beck Group, Tina Turner, Iron Butterfly, Muddy Waters, The Mothers of Invention (Frank Zappa), Buddy Guy, Deep Purple and Country Joe and the Fish. Depending on the act, there was a charge of $2.50 to $3.00. The Rock Pile closed in the summer of 1969 due to financial issues.
On New Years’ Eve 1969, the venue relaunched as the Masonic Temple, opening with Alice Cooper. From 1979 until 1998, it was known as The Concert Hall. Throughout the years, some of the incredible musicians that performed there include Frank Sinatra, The Ramones, Iggy Pop, George Clinton and P-Funk All-Stars, The Cramps, Metallica, James Brown, The Tragically Hip, Chuck Berry, Public Enemy, Soundgarden, Iron Maiden, David Bowie, The Pogues, Foo Fighters, Bob Dylan, The Band, Pearl Jam and many, many more.
Its Near Demolition
In 1996, the Freemasons sold the building to The Rosedale Group. The new owners originally had plans to reopen the hall; however, in 1997, they decided to demolish the historic building for condos. That same year, the landmark received heritage designation from the City and because of that, it just escaped being torn down.
The CTV Years
CTV purchased the building in 1999. It was home to their studios, and in 2006, it became headquarters to MTV Canada. Even though the hall was closed, there were still musical performances there, including one by U2. Plus, The Rolling Stones used the space for rehearsals.
The Building Today
Info-Tech Research Group purchased the iconic building for $12.5 million in 2013. The IT research and advisory firm beautifully renovated the structure, and along with being their Toronto offices, The Concert Hall is once again open for events. The hall has seating for 700 guests and features a raised stage with a decorative arch, a hardwood dance floor, theatre lighting rig and incredible acoustics. The venue hosts concerts, corporate events, parties and more.
Did You Know?
- The Masonic Temple was original to be located at 16 Spadina Rd.
- Prior to the Masonic Temple, the northwest corner of Yonge St and Davenport Rd was home to the Primitive Methodist Church, constructed in 1866. It later became the Christian Workers Church until 1904 when the building fell vacant. The church was demolished in 1916 to make way for the Masonic Temple.
- In the late 1920s, there was a proposal for the intersection of Yonge and Davenport to be a north commercial hub. The Masonic Temple and the Grand Central Market Building (or what we know today as Canadian Tire), were part of that proposal that was never fully realized.
- The 888 address of the Masonic Hall is considered lucky and coveted by developers.
Toronto’s Previous Masonic Hall
Before the Masonic Temple at Yonge St and Davenport Rd, the Freemasons met at a hall located at 18-20 Toronto St. One of the City’s lost gems and early skyscrapers, the Masonic Hall was designed by architects Kauffman & Bissell and was initially supposed to be a concert hall. The five-storey hall was built in 1857 and cost £17,000 to construct. The brick, tin-roofed structure had a fine-cut stone front featuring large iron pillars between plate glass and elaborate Gothic-style carvings. There were shops on the first floor with offices on the second and third floors. On the top floors were lodge rooms and a hall that was said to be the largest in the City.
The Toronto Street Masonic Hall later became offices for an insurance company until the building was demolished in the 1960s.
Just What is Freemasonry?
Formed by a guild of skilled stonemasons and cathedral builders, its origins date back to medieval Britain. In 1738, the colony of Canada’s first Masonic lodge was formed in Nova Scotia. Various lodges began throughout Upper and Lower Canada. In 1855, to separate themselves from the masons in England, the Grand Lodge of Canada was formed. In 1887, their name was changed to the Grand Lodge of Ancient and Accepted Masons of Canada in the Province of Ontario.
The oldest and largest fraternal organization in the world, freemasonry’s purpose was to help each other become better people. The founding principles of the mysterious and secretive organization include brotherly love, charity and truth, which is applied in their members’ daily lives. A few notable Freemasons include J Ross Robertson (founder of the Telegram), Joseph Brant, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Sir John A MacDonald, George Washington and Winston Churchill.
Today, there are over 3.2 million members worldwide, and in Ontario, there are 550 lodges with more than 40,000 members. Other branches include the Scottish Rite, York Rite, Shriners and Knights Templar.
Masonic Temple Photos
- City of Toronto Heritage Register: 888 Yonge St
- Ontario Heritage Trust: 888 Yonge St
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Jun 30, 1857, pg 2
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Apr 1, 1913, pg 1
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Dec 4, 1916, pg 9
- The Globe Newspaper Archives: Nov 19, 1917, pg 9
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Sep 12, 1968, pg 12
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Dec 30, 1969, pg 11
- Toronto Star Newspaper Archives: Mar 16, 1996, pgs K1, K3
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Sep 29, 1997, pg A11
- The Globe and Mail Newspaper Archives: Feb 12, 2006, pg R1
- The Toronto Sun Newspaper Archives: Jun 17, 2017
- Lost Toronto by William Dendy (1978), pgs 80-81
- 888 Yonge
- Grand Lodge of Canada in the Province of Ontario
- The Canadian Encyclopedia: Freemasonry
- CBC: Masonic Temple in Toronto sold to IT firm for $12.5M – Jun 17, 2013
- Photos: Denise Marie for TorontoJourney416
- Vintage Photos: City of Toronto Archives & Toronto Public Library