This Temple replaced the one located downtown, shown here on the near right, north of the Henry Grady Hotel (and Roxy Theatre) and Davison's, still standing. On the left can be seen the original First Baptist Church.
The downtown temple appears to contain a stage house at roof level, and this is where the fire began, when it burned to the ground in 1950.
In its prime:
When I was a kid, my Dad read in the paper that the new Temple was having a rare open house, and knowing my interest in theatre, he took me there. It was the first theatre I had ever seen with a fly house. It was also the first (and only) theatre I have ever seen with permanent scenery.
In 2003, I made arrangements to see the theatre again, and my Dad came along with his digital camera. I learned that the house was unchanged from forty years previous, because the Masons had allowed no one but themselves to use the place. There was a scenery door, but it had never been utilized.
This is how the auditorium appeared in a 1961 Atlanta Magazine photo. A thrust stage for ceremonial purposes extends from the stage proper.
Our guide was a ranking Mason named Virgil Bell, now deceased, was in charge of the stage. I am standing to his right.
The house is equipped with a Hub autotransformer board with proportional masters (top row) and a patch panel, not shown here.
The primary stage lighting were five rows of four-color borderlights. There was some front light and several floor pockets for effects machines dating from the 1920's which I later helped him to repair.
We learned that the flies held 83 pieces of permanent scenery set on 4 inch centers, controlled by a wire-guide counterweight fly system.
Seventy-two of the sets were allotted for "scenes," which were comprised of three portals or cut drops and a back drop. The remainder of the lines were for drapes, lights, and stand alone in-one drops.
Virgil Bell told us that the scenery was supplied by a Kansas City house that specialized in Masonic Halls. The scenic artist was named Don Carlos DuBois, who signed some of the drops before his bosses told him not to. Here his initials are contained within a scarab.
Virgil showed us the little notebook that explained which four lineset numbers corresponded to each "scene." That is my hand.
My Dad and I, thinking of the Fox Theatre down the street, selected the scene shown above, "the Egyptian," and Virgil brought it in.
At this point Virgil told us to concentrate on the back drop. "You see that pathway in the center? It will follow you."
I walked to the left, and it did (shown by green lines).
I walked to the right, ditto. Now this is a piece of painted canvas.
Being a skeptic, I asked my Dad to move his camera to the extreme offstage edge of the drop, the new position shown circled. If the pathway could "follow me," this would be proof.
This is what we (and the camera) saw:
Here are the two shots together. As a reference point, the columns on the right of each shot are the same column.
A few days later after I had seen my Dad's photographs, I went to the library and consulted every book I could locate concerning optical illusion, forced perspective and trompe l'oeil. There was nothing in any book remotely similar to what the Masons had accomplished. I had to invent a term to describe it: continuously variable perspective, which is of course is not possible. Yet there is was.