The Highland Park Masonic Temple is significant in the area of social history under Criterion A as the first permanent home of one of the area’s influential civic organizations. The building is also significant in the architectural development of the area under Criterion C as a very good example of a mixed-use commercial building executed in a Mediterranean/Spanish Revival style.

Highland Park, originally known, with the communities of Garvanza, San Rafael Heights, Hermon, and York Valley, as the “Five Friendly Valleys”, was created in the 1880s out of a small portion of the Verdugo family’s Rancho San Rafael. This rancho, granted on October 20, 1784 by Governor Pedro Fages to Jose Manuel Verdugo, included all of the territory between the Arroyo Seco, the Los Angeles River, and the foothills separating the present-day communities of Glendale and La Canada-Flintridge. The eastern portion of the rancho was sold to Andrew Glassell and A. C. Chapman in 1870, at the rate of $1 per acre. The land was used for the grazing of sheep until, in 1885, the Los Angeles and San Gabriel Valley Railroad was constructed through the Arroyo Seco to Pasadena. In 1886, the Garvanza Land Company was formed by Ralph and Edward Rogers, James Booth, and W. F. McClure for the purpose of purchasing large tracts of land in the Arroyo for subdivision. On November 15, 1886, a new hotel, christened the “Garvanza Villa”, opened, and lots were put on the market. The new subdivisions sold extremely well, with lots along Pasadena Avenue (now Figueroa) commanding as much as $1,500. The community suffered, as did the rest of Los Angeles, during the depression of the 1890s, as land values plummeted. Optimistic entrepreneurs continued to relocate to Highland Park, however, as J. P. Stocksdale opened the first store in 1891, and a new post office was constructed in 1892, officially splitting Highland Park from Garvanza. Highland Park was further tied to Los Angeles by the Union Pacific Railroad in 1890, and by the construction of a Pacific Electric line in 1893. Figueroa continued to serve as a main commercial street throughout this development period. Highland Park and Garvanza were both finally annexed onto the City of Los Angeles in 1898.

In the early 20th century, Highland Park was well known for its educational and civic institutions. Both Occidental College and the College of Fine Arts of the University of Southern California had campuses in the community, and many writers, artists, and intellectuals — including writer/activist Charles F. Lummis, historians J. F. Gunn and Dr. Robert G. Cleland, musician Walter Fisher Skeele of the U.S.C. College of Music, and artist W. I. Judson of the U.S.C. College of Fine Arts —were drawn to the area. These luminaries founded a number of civic organizations, including the Highland Park Ebell Club (which spearheaded the drive to preserve the Arroyo Seco) and Masonic Lodge #382.

In August 1906, thirteen Master Masons formed Lodge #382. The lodge met in several different locations during the next 13 years, but as membership kept growing it became apparent that constructing a Masonic: Temple would be prudent.

In 1919, the Highland Park Masonic Association purchased the southwest corner of Avenue 56 and Figueroa Street. Architect El more R. Jeffrey, a Lodge member, drew up the plans for the two-story Temple. Born in Wisconsin, Jeffrey came to California as a child. He began his architecture career as a western representative of the Boston firm of Maginnis & Walsh. In 1908, he formed a partnership with Paul Van Trees of Los Angeles. The partnership designed a Catholic Church in San Bernardino and various residences around the state. Jeffrey’s most important works were executed after 1915, when he joined Frank R. Schaeffer to form Jeffrey & Schaeffer. The firm designed many schools, including Anaheim High School (Anaheim, 1920), Franklin High School (Highland Park, 1915), Montebello High School (Montebello, 1921), and Banning High School (Wilmington, 1928). In addition to the Highland Park Masonic Temple, Jeffrey also designed the Knights of Pythias Hall in Anaheim. The cornerstone of the Highland Park Masonic Temple was laid on December 16, 1922, and on July 23, 1923 the 600 members held their first meeting in the new building.

Once established in their new Temple, the Highland Park Masons became very active in the community. Lodge members were always among the most involved citizens of the community, both personally and professionally. Led by influential members of the Highland Park and Los Angeles business communities (members of the Lodge included judges, attorneys, bankers, several Los Angeles County Assessors, teachers, and real estate brokers), the Lodge supported Masonic Children’s Homes and other local charity endeavors. 

In addition to Lodge #382, the Highland Park Masonic Temple has served over the years as the meeting place for other fraternal organizations, including the Garvanza Lodge #492, an Eastern Star chapter, and the youth organizations Demolay, Job’s Daughters, and the Rainbow Assembly.

Other civic and fraternal organizations active throughout Highland Park’s history include the Oddfellows, the Knights of Columbus, the Knights of Pythias, the Native Sons of the Golden West, and the American Legion. Many of these used buildings designed specifically to serve as lodge halls or clubhouses, but today there are only two — in addition to the Masonic Temple — still standing. These are the Ebell Club (built in 1912 by Sumner Hunt and Silas Burns) and the American Legion Hall (built in the mid-1970s). Still extant, and remaining largely intact from its prime period of significance, the Masonic Temple commemorates the important role the Masons — and fraternal and civic organizations in general —- have played in Highland Park since its dedication. Such institutional structures, along with religious structures, created the “public persona” of the Highland Park community. The Masonic Lodge’s adoption of one of the most popular architectural styles of the era and the quality of the rendition of this style for the community gives today’s public an idea of the type of neighborhood Highland Park boosters were trying to create. Although the building was sold by the Masons in 1982, it is still used for social gatherings and community meetings. The Highland Park Lodge is still active; after the merger with the Garvanza Lodge, the Highland Park Lodge became Highland Park Fellowship #290.

Although the Lodge and its membership continued to occupy the building until 1982, the period of significance for this application has been limited to the years preceding 1939. Prior to 1939, as stated above,, the Lodge was formed, built this building as their first permanent Lodge, established an institutional and architectural presence on Figueroa Street and, continued its philanthropic work in Highland Park.

Architectural significance: The Masonic Temple is one of eight to ten extant brick-faced commercial or institutional structures in the business district of Highland Park. Although now a part of the greater Los Angeles area, Highland Park began as a distinct community, separate and apart from its metropolitan neighbor to the south. Its “Main Street” is a linear strip which extends along Figueroa Street from Avenue 40 to York Boulevard. This business district is composed mainly of one-story commercial buildings, most of which have been severely altered. The heart of the historic commercial core is between Avenues 56 and 57, where the Masonic Temple, the old Security Pacific Bank, and the Highland Theatre are located. The theatre, a two-story Spanish Colonial Revival structure, has been badly altered: the arches have been filled in, there is new tile, and the windows have been replaced. The Security Bank, directly across the street from the Temple, is built in the same Mediterranean/Spanish style with brick facing and classical detailing. Its ground floor has been altered to accommodate an automated teller machine; some windows and doors have been replaced. The Temple is one of five brick-faced buildings of its type in the area; the others are the Security Bank, Highland Savings (Figueroa Street at York Boulevard), the Northeast Police Station (on York Boulevard near Figueroa), and the gothic Faith United Presbyterian Church (on Figueroa at Avenue 53). There are approximately five more two-story brick commercial structures in the area, all of which are devoid of ornament. The Temple, the Ebell Club (Figueroa at Avenue 57), several churches, and the Sycamore Park/Southwest Museum complex comprises Highland Park’s cultural and institutional resources. The architectural features of the Temple, with its classical detailing, brick facing, upper-story colonnade, and Avenue 56 facade, make a strong visual and architectural statement in the Highland Park business district. With the other buildings mentioned above, it is a strong contributor to the historic character of the street.

The style of the classically detailed two-story brick buildings was designed to give the tenant businesses and institutions a visual prominence in the commercial core. Red brick facing with the contrasting classical detailing gave each a sophistication not found in the surrounding low-rise commercial structures. The Highland Park Masonic Temple is a major example of its style and type in the community; the building is visually prominent, finely detailed, and maintains a high level of architectural integrity, both on the exterior and in the interior.