Cornerstone Center for the Arts, once a Masonic Temple, is a six-story building located at the northeast corner of Main and Madison Streets in Muncie, Indiana. This Gothic Revival building is the third Masonic Temple for the Masons in Muncie. Construction on the building began in 1920 and finished in 1926 at a cost of approximately $1 million. Prominent local architect Cuno Kibele was commissioned for the project. In addition, nationally recognized artist Gustav A. Brand created twenty-two murals for the interior spaces. The Masonic Temple was officially dedicated on November 27, 1926.
The six stories are divided into three levels, each a double story. The first level contains a banquet hall and auditorium, which were intended for use of the community. The second and third levels were reserved for the various Masonic lodges, though only the third level continues to be used for this purpose. Throughout the nearly 75 years of this building’s use, most of the original character defining exterior and interior features remain unaltered.
The Masonic Temple at 520 East Main is the third temple to be built by the Muncie Masons. Since their organization in 1842, the Masons built a temple at High and Main Streets and at 211 West Main Street as well as meeting in several other locations. The land for this third temple was acquired in 1919 due to increasing membership that made the previous temple inadequate. On July 20, 1919, the Muncie Star reported that appropriate papers had been filed to begin construction of the “finest Masonic temple to be found in the entire country, and the most magnificent structure of its kind in the state.” It was to be the most modernly designed building in the country at a cost of about $250,000. Each organization within the lodge was to have their own assembly room. The proposed construction would be the “cause of adding to the value of the adjoining and other properties in the immediate vicinity.” Cuno Kibele was selected as the architects with the instructions that the building not be too ornate but be simple and appropriate.
The foundation for the Masonic Temple was poured in 1921, but plans were stopped and revised with the donation of $150,000 from the Ball brothers for the incorporation of a public auditorium in the building. Frank C. Ball, in his memoirs, stated that the brothers had discussed upon several occasions providing an auditorium for Muncie where entertainments of a high order could be found. With the construction of the new temple, they felt that they had found a good organization to oversee such a facility.
Kibele drew new plans that required little change to the foundation already laid. When questioned by the Muncie Star on March 26, 1922, he stated that the theater would seat about 1,600. It would be of the bowl construction type, to permit the best viewing, and have permanent theater seats. The theater would have a full lobby across the Main Street façade that would provide access to both the theater and the banquet hail, which was to occupy the east half of the first level.
The cornerstone for the Masonic Temple was laid on October 30, 1923 with a grand ceremony. A parade through downtown ended with ancient rituals concerning the significance of the cornerstone. Construction continued on the building, and it was finished by fall of 1926. The final cost of the Masonic Temple was $1 million. The grand master presided over the dedication ceremony on November 26, 1926, which was covered by the Muncie Star. In his welcoming address, Frank C. Ball stated that the good influences felt in the community from the high ideals represented by the Masonic order would continue to increase with this new building. He continued: “The temple is not for the Masons only. The banquet hall and its auditorium are open to the public that the whole community might benefit and that its influence may be far reaching and everlasting.” He commented that the brothers’ desire to contribute an auditorium that would benefit Muncie by providing “lectures, concerts, and other entertainments of high order” found a happy solution with its incorporation into the building. Nearly 100 lodges and over 2,500 people were present throughout the day at the ceremonies, cafeteria lunch, and grand ball in the evening.
Cuno Kibeie, architect for the Masonic Temple, was born in Bluffton, Indiana in 1866. Named after his grandfather, he was one of eight children. His father, a surgeon who was seriously wounded while serving in the Civil War, died when he was very young. The family moved to Ohio after his father’s death to live with his mother’s family. They were very poor.
Cuno returned to Bluffton at approximately 16 years old in search of work. He first worked as a carpenter’s assistant and then as a masonry contractor. His first job as a contractor was to build the North Furniture Factory in Bluffton. In 1893, he bought a brickyard with partner Mose Miller. Kibele married Magdelena (Lena) Rebus of Fort Wayne in October 1894, and they had one child, Mary, in 1896. In 1897, he formed a partnership with William Powers, called Kibele & Powers, Architects. The firm lasted only a short time and was dissolved July 20, 1898. However, he continued to design and by 1901 sold the brickyard to focus on architecture.
On April 1, 1905, the Kibele family moved to Muncie, so that Cuno could oversee the H.R. Wysor Building project. This was the time of Muncie’s gas boom and many people had money to spend, so business was plentiful. His first office was located at 333-335 Johnson Building at the northeast corner of Walnut and Charles. By 1911, Kibele hired an assistant named Carl Wave Garrad, who made partner in the firm in 1923. It was at this time that the firm’s name was changed to Kibele & Garrad. A new office was built at 114-118 East Adams Street, called the Kibele Building, which was used until 1961, when Garrad retired. Besides the Masonic Temple, Kibele also designed the Wysor Building, Vatet Block, Harrison School, Merchants National Bank, Muncie Normal School Gymnasium (now located on the Ball State University campus), Rose Court Building (listed on the National Register), Ball Memorial Hospital, Canopic Apartments, Y.W.C.A., and approximately 60 residences in Muncie. Some of the firm’s commissions in other areas of the state include the First Presbyterian Church, Methodist Church, Bliss Hotel, Carnegie Library, and several residences in Bluffton. Cuno Kibele died of cancer December 10, 1927. He is buried in Beech Grove Cemetery in Muncie.
The Muncie Masonic Temple was one of Kibele’s major commissions in Muncie. Several plans for the building were submitted to the Masonic Temple Association and the “English Tudor Gothic” proposal was their selection. Kibele worked in many various styles throughout his career. At the time of the Temple commission, his style of choice was the Gothic Revival. The popularity of the Gothic Revival in the Midwest was influenced by the work of Ralph Adams Cram and Bertram Grosvener Goodue. They designed many Gothic Revival public buildings in the early 1900’s, such as their work at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and the Rockefeller chapel for the University of Chicago. This influence is clearly recognized in Kibele’s design of the Ball State Science Hall of 1922 and the Ball Gymnasium of 1924. It was within this vein of architecture that the design for the Muncie Masonic Temple was developed. The Gothic Revival projected strong, permanent, powerful, and religious qualities, which also reflected the heritage of the Masons.
The Gothic Revival was a popular style in the early 20th century for many types of buildings. The Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago produced the nationwide drive to build the City Beautiful. The focus was on creating monumental buildings that were grand in scale, symmetrical, carefully proportioned, and decorated in classical ornament. Architects looked to historical styles that were interpreted to represent a permanence and history that perhaps did not truly exist for the continual growing and changing country of America. They were trained to copy and translate these historic styles to a modern building with a modern function. The architecture was designed to represent a society that sought reform and progress. The style was used for all traditional civic monuments, including libraries, city halls, courthouses, university buildings, and society buildings, as well as for many of the contemporary commercial buildings. The Gothic Revival style, reflective of the Gothic churches of the Middle Ages, symbolized all the civic virtues any organization could hope to project. Characteristics of the Gothic Revival include contrasting materials, pointed or Tudor arches, turrets and towers, a vertical emphasis, and elaborate detailing. The Masonic Temple is an excellent example of this style with its dark brick contrasted by limestone detailing, Tudor arch entryways, center tower, corner turrets, oriel window, and overall massive presence on the street.
The Masonic Temple is a six-story brick building designed in the Gothic Revival style. The brick building is accented by limestone trim and is set on a raised limestone foundation. The primary façade, which faces south to Main Street, measures 200 feet. This façade is divided into three sections, each including a massive Tudor arch entryway. The central section is a large tower with elaborate limestone accents along the parapets and octagonal turrets marking the corners of the tower to the base. The Masonic symbol is contained within the south parapet on the top of this tower. The shaft of the tower contains an oriel window that spans from the third to the fifth floors with an additional window above it on the sixth floor. The main Tudor arch entry, in the tower base, consists of a limestone entry porch, three pairs of double doors, and a limestone panel above the arch inscribed with “Masonic Temple.” The side sections are identical and reflective of the central tower. The corners are defined by wide, square “turrets” containing a single window width. The window placement between these turrets and on the turrets reflects the three story oriel tower window with a three story combined window section articulated from the remainder of this portion of the façade by limestone bands. Double windows creating a horizontal rectangular emphasis are located above and below the combined windows on the turrets. Additional windows are located above the band. The Tudor arch entryways also contain three pairs of double bronze doors. Within the limestone spandrel on the west door is the inscription “Temple Auditorium.” All the main windows are double hung with six lights over a single light.
The east and west facades each measure 115 feet in length. They are nearly identical with square turrets marking the corners (as seen on the ends of the south façade) and a six center bays defined by brick pilasters. The limestone trim along the parapets, around the windows, and accent bands continue on these sides. The turrets have similar window placement and openings as on the south façade. Each of the six bays is divided vertically into three sections. The bottom section, separated by the limestone band between the second and third stories, has double height windows on the east façade and inset panels with a door on the west façade. The south bay of both facades has a series of single windows. The upper sections of the other bays consist of double story inset panels on the east. The same panels span the fifth and sixth stories on the west façade, but stacked single windows mark the third and fourth stories. All the main windows are double hung with six lights over a single light. The north façade, now facing the parking lot, is much simpler than the other three. The façade is divided into thirteen bays by brick pilasters. The limestone band between the second and third stories continues on this façade. No window openings exist above this band on the east half of the façade. Paired single windows are located in the upper stores on the west half. In the bay to the right of center is the rear double door entry. Other small windows and two service doors are found on this façade.
For the interior of the Masonic Temple, Gustav A. Brand designed the murals. This Chicago artist was born in Parchim, Germany in 1863. He came to the United States for the 1893 Colombian Exposition and decided to remain in Chicago to open his own mural company, Gustav A. Brand & Co. A highlight of his career occurred when he was appointed the chairman of Chicago Arts Commission, in 1934. His work is mainly found in theatres and other public buildings. Gustav A. Brand died in Chicago in 1944. For Muncie’s Masonic Lodge, twenty-two oil on canvas paintings, each measuring 12 by 14 feet, were commissioned. The majority of which were to be located in the Blue Lodge rooms and the main vestibule. They were painted in Chicago and then transported to Muncie. The scenes depict certain Masonic rituals as well as scripture from the Bible. There are only two identical murals, they are located over each lodge’s master’s station and depict scenes of the first day of creation from the Bible.
The interior of the temple is divided into a basement and three main floors, each with a mezzanine or balcony space. The levels are accessed by an elevator located in the tower on the south elevation. There are three vestibules on the first floor which run along south side of the building, behind which are located the public spaces of the temple. The auditorium is located behind the west vestibule and the banquet/ballroom is located behind the east vestibule.
The main vestibule contains the principal entry to the building as well as a few of the murals by Gustav A. Brand. The richly decorated main stairway, which connects all floors, is located here as well as the building’s Otis elevator. This vestibule is richly decorated with terrazzo, plaster work, murals and marble ornament, moldings and wainscoting. There are two arched openings, one leading to the east and one to west vestibule.
The east vestibule contains the entry to the banquet room; behind which can be found the kitchen facilities. Its decoration includes the use of marble, plaster work and terrazzo flooring. The banquet room has a large open space for dining or dancing and is open in the center to the second floor. The mezzanine, supported by square columns, is located along three sides of the room. A metal railing runs the span of the mezzanine and allows for a view of the entire space. The fourth side of the banquet room is lined with large windows. The beamed ceiling is divided into eight bays in line with the mezzanine supporting columns. This banquet hall was originally intended to cater to large groups and has dimensions of 105 ft x 66 ft, which provides ample room for approximately 1,200 people.
The west vestibule contains the entry to the auditorium. The plans for the Masonic Temple did not originally include an auditorium; however the Ball brothers wanted a place for community social gatherings and events. They donated $150,000 for a change in the plans and an inclusion of a public auditorium. The foundation, which was already poured, was altered to accommodate the new 1,300-seat auditorium with a horseshoe shaped balcony and lobby space, which included a ticket booth, a restroom, and stairway to the balcony. The lobby is richly decorated with marble, terrazzo and gold leaf detailing. The vaulted arched ceiling is divided into four bays and is decorated with a painted stencil design.
The auditorium is 75 ft x 70 ft and has a 60-foot stage at the north end. It was built in the “bowl construction type” to allow for excellent viewing and acoustic capabilities. The cantilevered balcony is supported by columns located to the rear. The concrete floor of the auditorium is painted and the center aisle is carpeted. Gold leaf stenciling and deep hued painted plaster cover the walls. The stage is graced with a heavy, blue velour curtain and a large hand-cut Bohemian glass chandelier is centered over the main seating area.
The second floor is accessed by either the elevator or main staircase, which open onto the central lobby. The lobby allows direct access to many of the various rooms and hallways. It is of a square shape with a coffered ceiling, pilasters on the walls, and a centrally located column. The west side of the second floor contains the clubroom, the ladies parlor, coatrooms and smaller parlors. The large and open clubroom was originally used as a lounge and now serves as a banquet room. It has a grid of square columns, which support the mezzanine above, accessed by a simple stair on the east wall. The ladies parlor is connected to the clubroom by two sets of double doors. This was a formal lounge area designated for women only. The mezzanine originally contained a billiard and card room for men; it is now used as a poolroom by DeMolay members.
The east end of the second floor contains the Eastern Star room, the Chapter room, and a large coatroom. The Eastern Star room, 40 ft x 60 ft, is a two-story space for official and ceremonial use. A balcony runs along the entire west end of the room, with a room for an organ. Two daises project out one from each end of the room, the larger of which is located on the east wall. The room contains 204 opera chairs. The Chapter room was the meeting place for Masons of the Muncie Chapter No. 30 R.S.A. It contains both Classical and Egyptian style ornamentation. A balcony runs around four sides of the room, which creates a corresponding arcaded space on the main floor. The center of the room is open to the third floor. A curtained alcove is found on the east wall over which a one and one-half-story arch projects beyond the balcony.
The third floor lobby is of the same plan, decoration, and location as that of the second. The Commandery room (59’6” x 63’6”) is located on the west side of the third floor complete with a locker room, toilet room and 60-foot stage. Tiered auditorium style seating is placed along the east and west walls. A balcony runs along the south wall and contains a room for the organ. The Commandery is richly decorated with ornamentation and architectural features. The walls are decorated with stenciling, gold leaf and Masonic emblems. The ceiling is coffered into four, square bays, embellished with painting and gold leaf designs.
Centrally located is the Red Cross Room, which is the smallest of the rooms. It is similar in plan to the other lodge rooms with a balcony on the south end. A small arched alcove is located on the north wall. Pilasters are positioned on the walls and the ceiling is coffered. Decorations include Egyptian motifs, gold leaf, and decorative molding. The two Blue Lodge rooms are situated on the east side of the third floor. They are almost identical in plan at two-stories in height and containing balconies on the west sides accessed by two spiral staircases in each corner. Three sides of the room are bounded by a platform with both auditorium seating and individual throne chairs. Under the balcony is a small dais behind which lies a small anteroom. A larger raised dais is located on the east side of the Blue Lodge rooms. These rooms contain a majority of the murals by Gustav A. Brand.
Since its dedication in 1926, the Masonic Temple has continued to fulfill the needs of the Masonic lodges and play an active role in the community. The majority of the interior rooms contain their original murals and fixtures as well as retain their original function. The theater and banquet hall, both of which seat 1,100 people, on the first level continue to serve the community.
Throughout 75 years of use, the theater served the community by providing space for various productions, including elementary school Christmas programs. The Muncie Civic Theater used the space from 1931 to 1961. The banquet hall served as a setting for banquets, civic club meetings, receptions, dances, and other social events. The Masons continued to utilize the rooms on the third floor. Five Masonic organizations, totaling about 1,000 members, continue to use the building for meeting purposes. The second floor now serves the Muncie Center for the Arts and numerous small arts organizations use the space for dance, art, theater, and children’s events.
To insure the continued maintenance and future presence of the Masonic Temple building in the community, several events have occurred over the last two decades as the Masonic organization has lost its numbers. In 1984, the Masonic Temple was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Also around this time, a group of concerned citizens formed a committee to enhance and preserve the building. The result was the incorporation of the Masonic-Community Building Foundation in 1989. It is responsible for the restoration, preservation, and protection of the historic building envelope and mechanical systems. In 1991, they received an evaluation of the structure that concluded that the basic structure and character of the building remained unaltered. Moisture penetration has caused some interior plaster damage and resulted in recommendations for work on the roof that were carried out in 1992. After completing this project, they continued to raise money for future projects. In 1993, they received a grant from the Ball Brothers Foundation. An endowment fund for the building was established in 1995 to continue to finance the work on the building and its systems. An investigation of the exterior brick was undertaken in 1996.
By 1999, concerned Muncie community leaders took over the building with the help of Edmund F. Ball, Frank Ball’s son because the Masonic orders’ members and caretakers of the building began to diminish in number, and the structure itself started to fall into disrepair. The building, then renamed the Community Civic Center, became landlord to Muncie Center for the Arts, an organization that provided arts programming for thousands of underprivileged children who would not have been able to experience the arts in any other venue in Muncie or Delaware County. By January 2004, the Community Civic Center and Muncie Center for the Arts merged to become one entity. A symbiotic relationship had emerged into what was temporarily called the Community Arts & Building Foundation (the legal name of the Community Civic Center).
On February 9, 2005, the building and organization were renamed Cornerstone Center for the Arts, capturing a more holistic and reflective description of our purpose in Muncie and Delaware County: exposure to and experience in the arts; special activities and events that encourage the diversity of programs and people; and a focus on the historical significance and restoration of our landmark structure.
Cornerstone Center for the Arts welcomes 90,000 visitors through its doors annually. Presently, the arts programming has over 1,000 students enrolled annually with more than 20% on documented financial aid. From this synergy, Cornerstone has made efforts to reach individuals of all races, ages, cultures, and socio-economic levels through arts programming, family-friendly special events, and by serving as landlord to other local groups, mostly arts-related organizations, who lease space in a building which is not only an historic treasure, but a welcoming presence in Muncie and Delaware County. These local groups, called Resident Organizations, include: Community Center for Vital Aging, East Central Indiana Chamber Orchestra, , Masterworks Chorale, Muncie Masonic Association, and Third Age Theatre. In addition to these organizations, Cornerstone Center for the Arts is the meeting place for the Noon Exchange Club every Thursday.
By Dawn Hein & Becky Lawin
Ball State University - ARCH 506
September 6, 2000