Friday through Sunday, November 20-22, the historic Scottish Rite Cathedral at 725 Cotton Street is hosting their second ever Antique and Vintage Bazaar. The first, in 2019, was a huge success with hundreds coming through to shop a variety of vendors and tour one of downtown’s most amazing buildings. The bazaar has taken on a new importance this year. Revenue from weddings and other events that normally supplement the cost of repairs to their remarkable building have gone to zero this year because of Covid-19. It’s not a stretch to say that a lot is riding on the outcome of this bazaar.

I remember the first time I went inside the Scottish Rite Cathedral at 725 Cotton Street downtown. I felt like Dorothy stepping through the doors to the City of Oz. I’ve been in every building in our historic city center, and few are as ornate on the inside as the out and a grand total of one is both more ornate AND has been owned by the same entity since it was built more than a century ago- the Scottish Rite Cathedral. This building is special.

You walk through the front doors of architect Edward F. Neild’s building into an expansive marble lobby with tall columns and soaring ceilings. Everywhere is woodwork that was carved by hand. To the rear is a giant dining hall, to the left is a sweeping stairway that takes you upstairs to a three-level auditorium that can seat 500. The dark and elegant auditorium features fabulous painted wall murals; on the stage are 92 hand painted stage backdrops with scenes of Rome, Greece, and other far-flung locales. Everything about the building was designed with purpose, says Mason Christopher Cannon.

“The décor, colors, ornaments; everything was built with intent,” says Cannon. “Much of it has special meaning to the Masons who use the building. Consider the spring and fall motifs which signify the passing of the old and the birth of the new; rebirth, the cycle of life.” In 1917, the building had all the technology of the day— lighting, electricity, and indoor plumbing. Heating, air conditioning and an elevator would all come later. For the first 60 years, the nearly 10,000 members of the Scottish Rite Valley (the area Scottish Rite draws members from)  were proud to invest in their grand building, but by the 1970s, membership in social, service and fraternal organizations across the board began falling. By the early 2000s, the roughly 500 remaining members of the Valley realized the maintenance burden of a century-old building was becoming a significant drain on their declining number.

In 2019, Cannon, one of the Valley’s younger members, and his wife Lauren, got permission to try something completely new and the Scottish Rite Antique and Vintage Bazaar was born. It featured two days and one evening of shopping and it was a hit. Many vendors had to restock after the first evening of shopping, some shoppers came multiple times, and it seemed that everyone found something to purchase and treasure.

The money raised from tickets and donations in 2019 allowed the Masons to replace the plumbing in an upstairs bathroom that was leaking into a wall and there was enough left over to repair a second bathroom, as well. Money raised through admission and donations at the 2020 bazaar will go toward a desperately needed electrical upgrade and repair, a project that has been quoted at more than $20,000.

The event that will help the Masons make these upgrades is a remarkable one, says Cannon. Antique and vintage jewelry, clothing,

advertising signs, furnishings, and décor- repurposed goods, art and more from more than nineteen unique vendors will be available on Saturday, Nov. 21, 9 am- 5 pm and Sunday, Nov. 22, 11 am- 5 pm, $5 admission. That admission will also allow you to take one of the tours of the building scheduled throughout both days. I would suggest the VIP First Night Pass on Friday, Nov. 20, 5-8 pm. Tickets are $20 advance/$25 at the door. The lucky ones who did this last year got first dibs on amazing one-of-a-kind merchandise at remarkably reasonable prices.

The building that is the beneficiary of the revenue from the bazaar has stood guard at the southeast corner of Cotton and Common Streets since 1917, home to the men who make up the Scottish Rite.  They continue to work to live up to their mission of human progress, liberty of thought, freedom of conscience and the guarantee of equal rights to all people everywhere. For Cannon and others, add another mission: maintaining a special building that means so much to so many.