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Scottish Rite center on sale for $8.4M

The Scottish Rite Masonic Center, long a Santa Fe landmark, is on the market with an asking price of $8.4 million. Already interested parties have been asking about it with thoughts of converting it to anything from a hotel to a performance space. (Journal File)
The Scottish Rite Masonic Center, long a Santa Fe landmark, is on the market with an asking price of $8.4 million. Already interested parties have been asking about it with thoughts of converting it to anything from a hotel to a performance space. (Journal File)
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The pink Santa Fe landmark that has long loomed over Santa Fe’s downtown is on the market for $8.4 million.

Masonic officials confirmed they were considering selling the Scottish Rite Masonic Center on Paseo de Peralta and Washington Avenue last month. Sotheby’s International Realty listed the property on March 15.

A hulking edifice at nearly 45,000 square feet, it was erected in 1912. The aging structure demands nearly constant maintenance while, at the same time, Masonic membership is dwindling.

Sotheby’s broker Maureen Mestas has already scheduled 10 showings of the building to “very qualified buyers.”

“We’ve had local interest and we’ve had interest from outside the country, even Canada,” she said.

So far Mestas has fielded about 20 inquiries, some from as far away as Ireland and London.

She says no one to this point has balked at the price for the two-acre property.

“I haven’t had a negative reaction yet,” she said. “Everybody appreciates it for its design and architectural significance.”

Two potential buyers from the hospitality industry are considering developing it into a hotel, she said. One developer talked about converting it into a mixed-use property with condominiums and a performing arts space. A community charitable group is considering using it for a combined education center and performance space, she added.

The building’s Moorish Revival style is partially based on one of the gatehouses to the Court of the Lions at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. The architectural firm of Hunt and Burns based its design on the connection between the Spanish building tradition in New Mexico and that of the Moors in southern Spain.

The building, listed with the National Register of Historic Places in 1987, includes a mural of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella sending Christopher Columbus off to the Americas. The mammoth structure stands out amid a city of earth-toned Territorial- and pueblo-style buildings.

The Masons have long allowed community groups to use the facility and its cavernous theater and dining hall for concerts and plays. The also hire it out for private meetings and weddings.

Hand-painted backdrops configured on a wooden fly system offer unique stagings for dramatic productions and operas. In January, the Santa Fe Concert Association performed the opera “Cinderella” there. The theater was designed for all-male Masons to perform ritual plays for candidates advancing through degrees of the organization.

The building also is listed on the state register of cultural properties and is protected in Santa Fe’s Historic Design Review District as a “significant” structure. And just this week, the New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance added the building to its Most Endangered Properties List, particularly in light of its possible sale.

The Scottish Rite Center includes an enclosed courtyard, a 3,000-square-foot commercial kitchen and dormitories. Stained glass windows, hipped roof tiles, horseshoe and keyhole arches add flourishes.

But the roof leaks and its two furnaces require regular maintenance.

During the 1950s and ’60s, temple membership reached as high as 7,000-8,000, said Tom Payne, Scottish Rite head of the Orient of New Mexico. Today those numbers have plunged to 1,400-1,800.

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