Mizpah Shrine Center History


The Story of the Mizpah Temple
 
The first seventeen years of the glorious history of Mizpah Temple is filled with sparkle, personal sacrifice and the feeling of gratification for work well done.

It was during a session of the Fort Wayne Shrine Club, held in the assembly room of the Chamber of Commerce, that the members present gave voice to the oft-expressed wish that Fort Wayne had a Shrine Temple – that is, that they had a separate Shrine organization. At that time, all Indiana Shriners were affiliated with Murat Temple at Indianapolis, and while the connection was of the most happy kind, the Nobles of Northern Indiana thought their numbers entitled them to a Shrine of their own. “It can be done!” exclaimed Edward H. Merritt, the president of the club. “All Right”, retorted his associates, “we delegate you to go after it and get it.” Mr. Merritt accepted the challenge and made a quiet visit to Indianapolis, with the result that the treasured document granting the dispensation to form a Temple here came along within a period of a few months.

The group which had composed the Shrine Club, and which had carried on for four years, formed the nucleus of the new organization. The dispensation came on the 27th of April, 1909, and the following line-up of members for the Divan was presented:

          Illustrious Potentate – Edward H. Merritt
          Illustrious Chief Rabban – Frank E. Stouder
          Assist Rabban – Charles A. Wilding
          Recorder – Charles A. Read
          Treasurer – George W. Pixley

Then came the question of a name for the Fort Wayne Temple. To Mrs. John F. Wing goes the honor of suggesting the name which has grown so popular – MIZPAH, which means, “The Lord watch between thee and me while we are absent one from another.”

The dispensation was delivered to the Fort Wayne group by Elias J. Jacoby, then Potentate of Murat Temple, Indianapolis, afterward elected to serve as Imperial Potentate. On the occasion of the dedication of the new Mizpah Temple, Noble Jacoby expressed extreme satisfaction with his important part in the creation of the local Temple.

The original meeting was held in the Commandery room of the old Masonic Temple, at the northeast corner of Wayne and Clinton streets, followed by a banquet in Trier’s Hall, in the Minuet Building on East Washington street. Murat Temple sent its Divan, Band and Patrol and the occasion was a notable one in the history of Masonry of Northern Indiana.

The dispensation, granted by the Imperial Potentate was extended by the Imperial Council at its meeting held in Louisville, Kentucky, June 8, 1909. In the following year, on the 12th of April, the Imperial Council at its New Orleans meeting granted the charter to Mizpah Temple.

Edward H. Merritt served as Illustrious Potentate from April 27, 1909, until January 1, 1912. Succeeding Potentates are: Arthur F. Hall (1913), Walter E. Cook (1914), Byron E. Somers (1915-1916), Marshall S. Mahurin (1917), Edgar H. Kilbourne (1918-1919), Charles H. Gumpper (1920), Charles A. Meigs (1921-1922), Edward A. Wagner (1923), George W. Gillie (1924), Robert Koerber (1925), and Herbert L. Somers (1926).

Following the first session, held in the old Masonic Temple, the Temple met in the Scottish Rite Cathedral in 1909, 1910 and 1911, and then for two years transferred its activities to Saengerbund Hall, at West Main Street and Maiden Lane. Returning then to the Scottish Rite Cathedral, ceremonials were held in the Fall and Spring until the opening of the magnificent new Mizpah Temple and Club House in the Fall of 1925.
Construction began in 1924. The idea was to provide northeast Indiana with a much-needed community center, which could host speakers and theatrical productions and provide banquet facilities.

Guy Mahurin, a well-known local architect and Shriner, was chosen for the project, with Max Irmscher & Sons as contractor. Construction began in April 1924 with 200 workers, primarily local. Excavation of the ballroom required two steam shovels and took six weeks to complete. More than 350,000 bricks were used in the construction, with hundreds of barrels of cement mixed with gravel and water. At the time of its construction, the building was said to be the most fireproof structure in Fort Wayne.

The building’s fašade was intended to give “…an atmosphere of the orient and yet give it a logical setting in the midst of a modern American city.” The interior also featured “Moorish decoration…with subdued oriental colors, thick, soft carpet, and comfort-giving chairs.” Construction costs exceeded one million dollars.

The Mizpah Shrine celebrated its grand opening with a ceremonial ball on Nov. 18, 1925. That weekend, the first public event was a performance of “Aida” by the Chicago Grand Opera Company.

In 1937, the Mizpah Shrine moved to 407 W Berry St, Fort Wayne, IN. It remained at this historic location until 2012.
Today the Mizpah Temple resides at 1015A Memorial Way, directly across Parnell Street from the Memorial Coliseum.