Last updated on May 15th, 2019 at 05:04 pm
The Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center in downtown Milwaukee is for sale, with a listing price of $4 million.
After years of declining membership, the Scottish Rite Masons voted in October on a two-year long range plan that included selling the 80,000-square-foot building at 790 N. Van Buren St., where the masons have been located since 1912.
The masons hired RFP Commercial three weeks ago to market and handle the sale, said Don Van Winkle, a spokesman for the group.
Van Winkle said the sale has nothing to do with the attempted mass shooting at the Masonic center that FBI agents stopped last month.
Once the building is sold, the masons will relocate within the Milwaukee community.
“We’ll choose a location based on where most of our members reside,” Van Winkle said.”Nothing has been decided yet.”
Joel Lee, owner of Van Buren Management, who owns several properties surrounding the Masonic Center, said he was contacted by someone from the Ambassador Hotel about six months ago who was interested in buying the Masonic Center but was concerned about the lack of parking. Ambassador Hotel management could not be reached for comment.
Van Winkle said several people have been interested in the property. The center is located across the street from the site where Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s new residential tower will be built and is adjacent to the Northwestern Mutual corporate headquarters campus.
The Humphrey Scottish Rite Masonic Center building was built in 1889 as a Romanesque Revival church designed by Edward Townsend Mix. The church congregation moved to the east side and the Scottish Rite Masons bought the building in 1912 to house the Scottish Rite Valley of Milwaukee, according to Historic Milwaukee Inc.
The building was remodeled in 1994, which allowed the masons to begin opening it to the public for weddings, fundraisers and theatrical performances. The facility includes a two-story theater, classrooms, mahogany dining room and one of the largest private art collections in Wisconsin.
Van Winkle said weddings and banquets have been curtailed recently because events are not economically feasible.
The current membership of the Scottish Rite Valley of Milwaukee is about 850, down from 7,000 in the 1950s to 1970s, Van Winkle said. He contributes the decline in membership to a lack of marketing and an overall decline in membership in the Grand Masonic Lodge of Wisconsin.
Before joining the Scottish Rite, you have to be a member of the Grand Masonic Lodge, Van Winkle said. One of the differentiators is the charitable organizations the groups support, he said.
One of those charitable causes is the Children’s Dyslexia Center of Milwaukee, which the Scottish Rite has supported since the mid-1990s. The group uses the center four days a week, Van Winkle said.
“Their hope is they will be wherever we are in the future,” Van Winkle said.