Our Town: Scottish Rite Cathedral

This building boasts a rich history, a little conspiracy and a lot of charity.


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photo: Rae Huo

To be clear, the Scottish Rite Cathedral, on Kewalo Street and Wilder Avenue in Makiki has nothing to do with Scotland. Nor is it a church, as the word “cathedral” may imply. The building was built in 1922 by the Christian Science organization, and, that same year, became the Scottish Rite Cathedral, home to the Scottish Rite Masons, one of a handful of lodges of Free and Accepted Masons in Hawai‘i. The Scottish Rite has been in Hawai‘i since 1874, and counts among its founding members John Dominis, King Kalakaua (who also founded HONOLULU Magazine), former mayor of Honolulu Lester Petrie and N.R. Farrington.

If the Freemasons sound familiar, it may be because the organization was featured in Dan Brown’s best-selling novel, The Da Vinci Code, which touched on a number of theories about the group—namely, that it’s associated with the occult and secretly runs world politics. This last assertion likely stems from the fact that a number of United States presidents, including George Washington, James Monroe and Andrew Jackson, were all Freemasons. But the Scottish Rite’s mission has nothing to do with black magic or world domination, says secretary William “Pete” Holsomback. “The Scottish Rite is a fraternal organization. Membership is open to all men who express an interest, and who believe in a Supreme Being, though we’re not a religious organization. I’d like to think we take good men and make them better men. We’re not a secret organization.”

Like any other fraternal club, the group holds monthly meetings for its 950 or so members, as well as other social get-togethers. Monday through Friday, however, the building’s main occupants are approximately 14 children ages 3 to 6 who attend the Scottish Rite’s language disorder clinic. Spread throughout various rooms on the first floor, the youngsters, who are often referred to the Scottish Rite by schools and doctors, work with certified speech therapists to correct their impairments. “No child is ever turned away,” says Holsomback. “If they’re not covered by insurance, then Scottish Rite picks up the tab.”

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