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Pasadena Scottish Rite

Pasadena Scottish Rite

First Opened: 17th February 1925 (94 years ago)

Website: www.pasadenascottishrite.org Open website in new window

Telephone: (626) 795-4213 Call (626) 795-4213

Address: 150 North Madison Avenue, Pasadena, CA 91101 Show address in Google Maps (new window)

 Overview

The Scottish Rite building in Pasadena dates from 1925 and houses a well-equipped theatre called the Cobb Auditorium. The space underwent major renovations in the 1960s but retained its early 20th Century stage machinery, including a large number of Sosman & Landis scenic backdrops, some of which date back to the 1890s.

The current building, designed by architect Joseph J. Blick, is the Scottish Rite’s third building in Pasadena, following the Stanton Building (1895-1905) and North Fair Oaks Avenue (1905-1925). In addition to meeting rooms and offices, the building houses a museum, a large auditorium with supporting scenery, actor, prop, makeup, and wardrobe spaces, plus a large banqueting hall underneath the auditorium at street level. Groundbreaking took place in April 1924 and the building was dedicated on 17th February 1925.

Ohio-based M.C. Lilley & Co was engaged to provide the costumes, props, and scenery necessary to present the degree work. Scenery was outsourced to Sosman & Landis of Chicago, who specialized in backdrops for Masonic theatre in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. Sosman & Landis backdrops went into Scottish Rite theatres in cities such as Santa Fe, Guthrie, Austin, and Dallas. Some scenery came to Pasadena from a collection previously sold to the Scottish Rite in Little Rock, Arkansas, and later sold back to Sosman & Landis; the remainder was new scenery painted in late 1924 by Thomas G. Moses of Sosman & Landis, who also oversaw the scenic installation on-site.

The “Brown’s Special Counterweighted” system installed at the Pasadena Scottish Rite is a cabled-guided single purchase counterweight flying system featuring wooden arbors (cradles) on four-inch spacings, operated from the stage floor or from the fly floor. Rope locks were not necessary on these systems as the permanently-hung scenery allowed for exact counterweighting. The “Brown” moniker has been generally attributed to M.C. Lilley’s salesman of the time, Bestor G. Brown, however following investigations by Wendy Waszut-Barrett Link opens in new window, it seems credit is probably due instead to the subcontracted Sosman & Landis master stage carpenter who oversaw all of S&L’s Masonic installations, who happened to also have a last name of “Brown”.

During the Great Depression membership numbers dwindled, and the burden of a large mortgage threatened the very existence of the Pasadena Scottish Rite Cathedral. Charles Henry Cobb made significant financial contributions, and in November 1935 the building’s auditorium was renamed and dedicated as the Cobb Auditorium, in his honor and in recognition of his financial contributions to the organization.

As a general maintenance procedure, the scenic backdrops were rehung in 1944 by Ross Merrill and Harry Billheimer. In the same year the theatre received its first amplified sound installation.

In November 1964 it was agreed that a complete remodeling of the 40-year old Cobb Auditorium would take place. Principal items in the $150,000 remodel were to be:

The remodeling project was completed in early April of 1965, and in 1970, the 1925 organ console was replaced. The original 1925 organ had been presented by Edward Sisson Crump in memory of William Henry Vedder.

The Pasadena Scottish Rite continues to be an important part of the Pasadena community, and their facilities are available for rental. For more details and information, check out their website Link opens in new window.

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 How do I visit the Pasadena Scottish Rite?

The Pasadena Scottish Rite is a working Masonic Temple and does not offer general tours. Visitor inquiries should be directed to the office either in person or to rentals@pasadenascottishrite.org (office hours are 9am to 3:30pm Tuesday to Friday).

 Technical Information

Flying System
System Type “Brown’s Special Counterweighted” system featuring wooden arbors on 3-inch centers
Linesets 72; comprising 71 regular linesets and a wraparound cyclorama rigged to set #72
Lighting
Control 1960s Century Lighting 30-way console featuring “C-Card” memory preset technology.
Dimmers 32 @ 4kW “C-Core” Century Lighting SCR-type dimmers (3 additional dimmers for Houselights)
Historic Photos & Documents

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 Photos of the Pasadena Scottish Rite

Auditorium - Balcony

The Auditorium underwent a major renovation in 1964/65. The Auditorium was completely remodeled and a forestage was added to the Stage with curved house curtain above. The original Proscenium Arch, with its doors flanking either side, is still visible to the rear of the new forestage and curtains.

The Double-Headed Eagle devices on the Auditorium walls are actually openings with a light scrim behind; these permit sound to enter the Auditorium from the organ chambers.


Auditorium - Orchestra

The Auditorium underwent a major renovation in 1964/65. The Auditorium was completely remodeled and a forestage was added to the Stage with curved house curtain above. The original Proscenium Arch, with its doors flanking either side, is still visible to the rear of the new forestage and curtains.

The Double-Headed Eagle devices on the Auditorium walls are actually openings with a light scrim behind; these permit sound to enter the Auditorium from the organ chambers.


Exterior

The building was designed by Joseph J. Blick and completed in 1925.


Flying System

The flying system is called a “Brown’s Special Counterweighted” system. This installation consists of 72 wire-guided counterweight linesets on 3-4in spacings with wooden arbors. Such systems were installed by Sosman & Landis of Chicago during the early 20th Century, where a large number of relatively light loads (backdrops) needed to be fairly permanently flown.

You can read more about the “Brown’s Special Counterweighted” system on Wendy Waszut-Barrett’s “Dry Pigment” website Link opens in new window.


Front of House Areas

The building’s Grand Staircase provides access from the main doors on North Madison Avenue into the building and to the Cobb Auditorium.


Lighting System

The theatre’s lighting system dates from the 1964/65 renovation and was a custom installation by Century Lighting.

The “C-Core” dimmer rack (solid state SCR technology) is located in the basement and has 32 @ 4kW dimmers for stage lighting and 3 @ 6kW dimmers for houselights. The system’s patch panel is located downstage right and provides four outlets per dimmer for patching the 90 circuits wired around the theatre. The patch panel also provides a number of non-dim outlets. The lighting console includes an early memory function called “C-Card” (generically known as a platen/palette preset): at the left end of the console are two receptacles for 30-way preset panels (a little smaller than a computer keyboard), allowing lighting states to be recorded and cross-faded between, with multiple panels being physically swapped in and out of the desk to facilitate recalling multiple lighting states. The Century Lighting C-Card system utilized circuit boards with linear potentiometers.


Organ

The Organ Room is at Balcony level on the House Left side. The Double-Headed Eagle devices on the Auditorium walls are actually openings with a light scrim behind; these permit sound to enter the Auditorium from the organ chambers.

The Organ Room has adjustable openings, similar in operation to casement windows, which provide the Organist with a line-of-sight to the Stage but without giving the audience a view into the Organ Room.

The blower for the organ is located below the Auditorium.


Stage

Backstage facilities are to Stage Right; there is no Stage crossover. Scenery was furnished in 1925 by Sosman & Landis of Chicago, with a number of backdrops coming from the 1896/1899/1902 collection originally supplied to the Scottish Rite in Little Rock, AR, and sold back to Sosman & Landis in 1923.

The 1964/65 renovation saw a forestage added to the Stage, with curved house curtain above.




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