Repository Spotlight: Scottish Rite Cathedral & Masonic Public Library

On March 28th AHA members toured the Masonic Public Library and the Scottish Rite Cathedral, an imposing building many of us have probably wondered about on the corner of Kewalo Street and Wilder Avenue in Makiki. There was a lot of interest with nearly all 30 slots on the tour filling quickly.

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Pete Holsomback began the tour with a brief history of the masons in Hawaii

Host Pete Holsomback led us on a great tour and answered our many questions about the masons and the library. Some of the answers, for those who missed the tour: the Scottish Rite has nothing to do with Scotland; the masons are not a Christian organization, but they commemorate events including The Last Supper; Shriner’s reflect the fun side of the masons; the second Shriner’s hospital was built right here in Honolulu in 1926; they don’t admit women, but there are affiliated groups for women such as Daughters of the Nile.

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Stage in the ceremonial hall

Hawaii’s first masonic lodge was established in 1843. The Scottish Rite was founded in Honolulu in 1874 by King Kalakaua’s brother-in-law, John Owen Dominis. The photographs depicting high ranking masons in the dining area represent some of the most prominent men in Hawaii’s history, dating back to the Scottish Rite’s founding. Today they have around 800 members, with about 450 on island; in the past they had as many as 1800 members. This is one of three Scottish Rite buildings in Hawaii; the other two are on Maui and in Hilo. The building we toured was built in 1922 and features a welcoming entrance area, large dining room and library, with a grand ceremonial hall spanning the second floor.

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Ceremonial items and memorabilia are displayed in cases along the wall of the library

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The Masonic Public Library collection focuses on books on masonry and Hawaiian history

The library was established and endowed in 1974 by Harold Winfield Kent, former President of Kamehameha Schools. There are significant holdings of books on masonry and early books on Hawaiian history. The library is free and open to the public Monday through Friday from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm. They don’t have a dedicated library staff, so Jaime who graciously helped with our tour, assists patrons in the library in addition to her responsibilities overseeing the organization’s preschool program for children with language needs.

Mahalo to Stuart Ching for help arranging this tour and to the AHA Site Visits Committee for publicity and coordination. We are grateful for the opportunity to visit this historic building and its library!

Photos courtesy of AHA Board Members.

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