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February 29, 2016
BENEFITING: SCOTTISH RITE VALLEY OF ATLANTA PRESERVATION TR
The preservation Trust was set up by the Scottish Rite, Valley of Atlanta to preserve the priceless art work that is in the care and possession of the Valley. This art work consists of over 50 scenery backdrops that are installed at the Atlanta Masonic Center. Each piece was hand painted by Don Carlos Dubois. After years of use and normal wear and tear it is necessary to repair and preserve these works of art.
These works were commissioned by The Scottish Rite Valley of Atlanta from The Great Western Stage Company of Kansas City, MO, a leader in creating illusionary scenery backgrounds for stage, theater, vaudeville, and fraternal societies. The Atlanta scenery drops were painted in 1959 and 1960 after the Atlanta Masonic Temple burned to the ground in 1950. There is a brief history of this below.
The painting of scenery backdrops is considered a “lost art” and these fine examples must be preserved. The University of Minnesota has acquired the archives of sketches, drawings and photos of the great western Stage Company and maintains them in the University collection.
Du Bois was born in 1883 and was trained as a classical artist at the Chicago Art Institute of Paris and Rome. To quote C. lance Brockman Historian and professor at the University of Minnesota, " When these scenery backdrops were created, there would have been few painters that could equal his skills and sense of composition". This same professor has reported that most scenic art from the 1950's has not survived and that these works have not only survived but are first rate.
Don Carlos Du Bois was not only a talented artist he was a World War I and World War II veteran, as well as a 32 degree mason. The mission of the Preservation Trust is to raise money to replenish the Trust and provide for ongoing maintenance of these treasures.
Scottish Rite Masons raised money starting in 1915 to support a children’s hospital in Atlanta, The Scottish Rite Hospital. This facility is now a part of Childrens Health Care of Atlanta. The hospital’s mission to serve patients and families was sustained by strong community support, a tradition that grew from many passionate commitments, and in particular Scottish Rite Masons. The efforts of local and regional Masons in the early years played a vital role in covering the costs of staff salaries and medical supplies, with the Masons often paying for these expenses out of their own pockets.
The backdrops painted by Don Carlos Dubois hang on the stage of the auditorium at The Atlanta Masonic Center. The scenery drops are regularly used for ritualistic portrayals and provide meaningful symboliism with moral teachings as explained by the Scottish Rite degrees. The backdrops are also used for other meetings, plays, and are available for display to the public.
Atlanta Masonic Center
Formerly Atlanta Masonic Temple
At 1:50 p.m. on September 7, 1950, a telephone alarm was made to the Atlanta Fire Department from the Masonic Temple located at the corner of Peachtree and Cain Streets, reporting a fire started by the acetylene torch of an elevator workman on the top floor of the six story building. The flames spread rapidly and a second alarm was sounded five minutes after the first, a third in another five minutes, and the fourth and fifth within the next twenty-two minutes. In all, thirteen companies responded, bringing thirty-six water streams to bear on the building with no sprinkler system. The efforts of the Fire Department were to no avail, however, and the magnificent Temple was completely gutted, the loss estimated at $345,000; a huge sum at the time.
The Craft was in a state of confusion, and there were no designs on the trestle board. The Temple Board of Trustees announced that they would be unable to provide meeting facilities “for sixty days”. The Lodges, the Scottish and York Rite Bodies, and other appendant Orders that met in the Temple were out of a place to meet and had to find other meeting accommodations in the area.
Rarely during the decade following the burning of the Temple was the issue of a new Temple dormant. About two years after the fire the Scottish Rite Bodies proposed the acquisition of the Grand Ball Room at Kimball House where the Rite had been meeting and looked for other groups to join them, however, after consideration by the Lodges and other groups, the preference was determined to be a new Temple building.
In January 1954 the Temple Trustees began serious fund raising for a new Temple. About three years later in December 1957 the Trustees announced that property for a new Masonic Temple had been purchased at the corner of Peachtree Street and Deering Road, across from Brookwood Station. The site could hardly be considered “down-town”, being over three miles from Five Points, but it was located at the juncture of the Northeast and Northwest Expressways, and was well chosen as the new focus of Masonic activity in the Atlanta area.
The official ground-breaking ceremony was held on June 16, 1959. The cornerstone of the new Temple was laid by Grand Master R. M. Vandergriff, Sr., on September 17, 1959 with the time honored ceremonies.
Grand Master Edwin A. McWhorter dedicated the new Temple on September 9, 1960 – ten years and two days after the destruction of the old Temple. Eight Blue Lodges, Scottish Rite, and York Rite Bodies, representing about ten thousand members, once again had a home after a decade of temporary arrangements.
September 9, 2016 will mark the 56th year of Freemasonry at 1690 Peachtree and Deering Road.
**If you would prefer to donate by mail, please send checks/money to us at the below address. Thank you again for your help.
1690 Peachtree St NW
Atlanta, GA 30309