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AHS delivered a Conservation Management Plan for the State heritage listed former Cairns Masonic Temple


The imposing facades and prominent Corinthian columns of Masonic temples, also known as lodges, are a common feature within many of Australia’s urban landscapes.

This is certainly the case in Cairns, where the former Cairns Masonic Temple is one of the brick and stone buildings constructed during the 1920s and 1930s that have come to define the city centre.

For more than eighty years the former Cairns Masonic Temple played a significant role as the meeting place for the District Grand Lodge of Carpentaria, which included all lodges across Far North Queensland.

Following its purchase of the State heritage listed site in 2017, the Catholic Diocese of Cairns tasked AHS with creating a Conservation Management Plan. This would guide heritage compliance for any maintenance work and provide advice on constraints that might apply to the future reconfiguration of the building.

Richard Hill and Arthur Taylor’s design completed in 1935

The arrival of Europeans in Cairns from the 1860s onwards inevitably led to Freemasonry’s introduction to the region, as Masonic activity was already ubiquitous in Queensland settler society.

In April 1886 the first Masonic Lodge was constituted in Cairns. After their regular meeting place was destroyed by a cyclone in 1927, Queensland architects Richard Hill and Arthur Taylor – both of whom are thought to be Freemasons – were contracted to create the Cairns Masonic Temple that was completed in 1935.

The temple was described as a “magnificent structure, combining the latest in architecture suitable to a tropical climate” by the Morning Bulletin. This impression was echoed by the Northern Herald on 5 October 1935:

“A most imposing façade facing Minnie-street is flanked with two great Corinthian pillars carried out in terracotta and surmounted by two large electric lights. Huge bronze doors lead into the vestibule on the ground floor.

“In view of the heat of the northern climate, special attention was given in the design to ventilation. Ducts from the external walls have been brought through under a raised platform around the lodge room and the air will be exhausted by using two big fans ensuring a continuous flow of fresh, cool air on even the most humid evenings.

“Undoubtedly, the new temple is an acquisition to the architecture of Cairns and the fraternity of the district has every reason to feel proud of its new temple, which has been described as one of the most up-to-date and beautiful outside the metropolis.”

Early image of the Minnie Street facade of Cairns Masonic Temple


Imposing façade with Corinthian pillars

The former Cairns Masonic Temple is a two-storey, T-shaped building with concrete rendering and a low-pitched gabled roof.

The imposing façade is symmetrical and retains its original detailing, with the central stairs and recessed doorway flanked by two large Corinthian pillars. The entrance steps are made from terrazzo and covered by a cantilevered awning with a pressed metal ceiling.

The Main Hall is largely intact in its original condition, with three original entrance doorways including fanlights and hardware. The high waisted, four-panel double doors are finished in natural timber.

The Lodge Room on the upper floor was the meeting hall for each of the lodges associated with the Grand District of Carpentaria. The space is in similar proportions to the Main Hall below, although the detailing is much more elaborate and it retains significant furnishings.

This room features elevated, tiered seating, with the elevated Grand Master’s section to the rear. Original seating with blue cushions exists across the tiers, although the Grand Master’s chair has been removed. A checkered tile pattern is displayed on the floor in the middle of the Lodge Room.

Circular stained glass window


Design accommodates the rituals of Freemasonry

The AHS team’s comparative analysis of other relevant sites confirmed that Cairns Masonic Temple follows a pattern of key design characteristics associated with Masonic lodges, to accommodate the rituals and traditional practices of Freemasonry.

Our review of the current Queensland Heritage Register found that its significance was captured adequately and required no update apart from recognition that the ownership of the site has changed.

Now that the site is no longer used by the Freemasons, there is an opportunity to have an interpretive display on site which could offer a brief history of Freemasonry in Cairns and showcase the significance of the building.

Contact us

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

Minnie Street facade of Cairns Masonic Temple

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The Challenge

The arrival of Europeans in Cairns from the 1860s onwards inevitably led to Freemasonry’s introduction to the region, as Masonic activity was already ubiquitous in Queensland settler society.

In April 1886 the first Masonic Lodge was constituted in Cairns. After their regular meeting place was destroyed by a cyclone in 1927, Queensland architects Richard Hill and Arthur Taylor – both of whom are thought to be Freemasons – were contracted to create the Cairns Masonic Temple that was completed in 1935.

The temple was described as a “magnificent structure, combining the latest in architecture suitable to a tropical climate” by the Morning Bulletin. This impression was echoed by the Northern Herald on 5 October 1935:

“A most imposing façade facing Minnie-street is flanked with two great Corinthian pillars carried out in terracotta and surmounted by two large electric lights. Huge bronze doors lead into the vestibule on the ground floor.

“In view of the heat of the northern climate, special attention was given in the design to ventilation. Ducts from the external walls have been brought through under a raised platform around the lodge room and the air will be exhausted by using two big fans ensuring a continuous flow of fresh, cool air on even the most humid evenings.

“Undoubtedly, the new temple is an acquisition to the architecture of Cairns and the fraternity of the district has every reason to feel proud of its new temple, which has been described as one of the most up-to-date and beautiful outside the metropolis.”



How we helped

The former Cairns Masonic Temple is a two-storey, T-shaped building with concrete rendering and a low-pitched gabled roof.

The imposing façade is symmetrical and retains its original detailing, with the central stairs and recessed doorway flanked by two large Corinthian pillars. The entrance steps are made from terrazzo and covered by a cantilevered awning with a pressed metal ceiling.

The Main Hall is largely intact in its original condition, with three original entrance doorways including fanlights and hardware. The high waisted, four-panel double doors are finished in natural timber.

The Lodge Room on the upper floor was the meeting hall for each of the lodges associated with the Grand District of Carpentaria. The space is in similar proportions to the Main Hall below, although the detailing is much more elaborate and it retains significant furnishings.

This room features elevated, tiered seating, with the elevated Grand Master’s section to the rear. Original seating with blue cushions exists across the tiers, although the Grand Master’s chair has been removed. A checkered tile pattern is displayed on the floor in the middle of the Lodge Room.

Results

The AHS team’s comparative analysis of other relevant sites confirmed that Cairns Masonic Temple follows a pattern of key design characteristics associated with Masonic lodges, to accommodate the rituals and traditional practices of Freemasonry.

Our review of the current Queensland Heritage Register found that its significance was captured adequately and required no update apart from recognition that the ownership of the site has changed.

Now that the site is no longer used by the Freemasons, there is an opportunity to have an interpretive display on site which could offer a brief history of Freemasonry in Cairns and showcase the significance of the building.

Contact us

To discover how we may be able to assist on your next project, contact us today here or phone (07) 3221 0000. You can also connect with us on LinkedIn.

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Extensive war history unearthed at Milman Hill Complex on Thursday Island

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AHS ensures cultural preservation of the Mt Coot-tha Kiosk and Lookout, unearthing a rich history at one of Brisbane’s premiere vantage points

Case Study

AHS helps to record and conserve Bega’s network of historic granite kerbs and gutters for our client Bega Valley Shire Council

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Delivering heritage services including an Archival Recording at the Coffs Harbour Forestry Building

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Conserving Willard’s Farm, one of the oldest surviving farms and residences within the Redlands on Brisbane’s Bayside

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AHS projects with Cairns Regional Council include a CMP for Mulgrave Shire Council Chambers

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AHS uncovers a lengthy historical legal challenge while researching the William Mitchner Shelter

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