The building for the Valley of the Williamsport Scottish Rite long has stood at Fourth and Market streets in Williamsport, a solid and even majestic edifice, appearing almost like a sentry overseeing center city.
High atop the building overlooking Fourth Street is the symbol for freemasonry – a square and a set of compasses.
It’s in the building where the four bodies of the Scottish Rite meet: Lodge of Perfection, Council of the Princess of Jerusalem, Chapter of Rose Croix and Williamsport Consistory.
“We had 11,000 members at one time,” said Gregory Wenrich, chairman of Scottish Rite board.
But the times have changed and, like many long-recognizable and once stable institutions and community organizations, the membership for the Scottish Rite has fallen over the years.
These days, the Scottish Rite numbers just 2,000 people.
A magnificent structure of such size no longer is feasible for the organization.
The auditorium, at the south end of the building complex at 330 Market St., has been put up for sale.
“That doesn’t mean all our buildings,” Wenrich said. “We are staying at Market Street and Fourth streets. We are keeping what we call the Howard Memorial Cathedral and also the Acacia Club.”
It’s in those two buildings, separate but attached to the auditorium building, where the organization has been meeting its fraternal and social obligations for more than 100 years.
Wenrich said the auditorium, which seats 1,200 people, is rarely used.
The building, erected in 1968 when the Scottish Rite was at the height of its membership, also includes a large kitchen and a ballroom downstairs. A lobby fronts the auditorium.
The front doors on Market Street feature impressive stained glass windows carrying the emblems of the four bodies of the Scottish Rite.
“It’s a bitter pill to swallow to have to sell the building, but it’s reality,” said Ken McClintock, commander-in-chief of the Valley of Williamsport.
Heating costs for the auditorium alone make it expensive to maintain.
Over the years, the auditorium was the setting for numerous entertainment and other activities.
McClintock and Wenrich said leasing the building is not really an alternative.
“We don’t have the expertise to market the place,” McClintock said. “We are reluctant, but it’s a no-brainer.”
Wenrich said the auditorium simply doesn’t get much use anymore.
“We love the spot where we are at,” he said. “We just have a building that is much too large for our needs.”
Wenrich made it clear that the organization is not going anywhere.
“We are not leaving town. We want to stay,” he said.