The historic downtown Masonic Temple building is home to the Roof Top Bar in Wilmington at 21 N. Front St. Level 5.
The cornerstone was laid on May 13, 1899, with full Masonic ceremony. As the Wilmington Messenger described it, “wine and oil (were) poured over the (cornerstone) from silver chalices.”
When President William Howard Taft visited Wilmington on Nov. 9, 1909, the banquet in his honor was thrown at the Masonic Hall.
The fifth floor (now the Rooftop Bar) was at first reserved for a tea garden, where guests enjoyed the view. By 1909, however, the Masons evicted the tea garden, because “all the drinking and dancing exceeded the bounds of good taste.” Kind of sounds familiar.
Around 1914, the Masons installed a 200-seat theater on the fifth floor where the rituals of Scottish Rite degrees were enacted.
In 1981, however, the local Scottish Rite bodies moved to a new Temple building on South 17th Street, and the Masonic Temple, now in private hands, entered a period of decline.
Then in 1992, actor Dennis Hopper — who was in town shooting the film “Super Mario Bros.” — discovered the Masonic Temple while looking for a place to store his artwork.
In 1999, John Sutton bought the building. Sutton further renovated the building; many of the old offices became apartments. A major focus was the fifth floor theater, refitted for 220 seats,
The revived theater has played host to productions ranging from “The Rocky Horror Show” to “Romeo and Juliet” along with an annual restaging of David Sedaris’ “The SantaLand Diaries" and also served as a venue for the Cucalorus Film Festival and other events.
Special thanks to Ben Steelman and the Star News.