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What should become of the Masonic Temple post-MTV?

Posted by Chris Bateman / November 7, 2012

toronto masonic templeAs was reported last week, the historic Masonic Temple building at Yonge and Davenport, presently the home of MTV Canada, is being vacated by its owners, Bell Media, and its future hasn't been decided. Formerly occupied by CTV, the Masonic Temple, despite its name, has a rich history as a concert venue. Many of the biggest names in rock have played here since the 1960s.

The story of the sale so far is strikingly similar to that of Postal Station "K" up the street at Yonge and Eglinton. There, Canada Post is preparing to sell its famous art-deco property that stands on the former site of Montgomery's Tavern, possibly to developers. Naturally, there's outrage among locals and music fans who would rather see the building left untouched.

Both the Masonic Temple and Postal Station "K" are partially protected by their designation as heritage sites by the City of Toronto. That doesn't mean either structure is completely safe in its present configuration. If sold, developers could, conceivably, build something that merely incorporates the protected aspects of each structure.

toronto masonic temple"No firm plans are in place for the Temple," maintains Scott Henderson, Bell Media's VP of Communications. "We've been very proud owners of the building for many years and when we bought the building in 1998 we were very excited to make it into an animated destination and we're very proud of keeping that legacy going."

Henderson says the current MTV studios at the temple were increasingly "orphaned" from other Bell Media operations at Queen Street. A lack of HD recording facilities and other production constraints on the Yonge Street property make it easier and cheaper to build new studios rather than renovating the Masonic Temple.

"Our real estate department is evaluating the property and determining the best use for it. That may change as we move forward but currently we've made the decision to move MTV out and are determining what we do next."

toronto rockpile led zeppelinThe Masonic Temple was built in 1917 at a cost of $200,000 to house various masonic lodges and chapters. A former Methodist Church on the site was demolished to make way for the new building which, according to the Toronto World, was "rushed to completion." From its first days, the new building doubled as a performance space.

The first meetings were held on New Year's Day 1918 but in just over 12 years the building had been turned into a dedicated music hall. Known as the Rockpile in the 1960s, the Masonic Temple was the venue for Led Zeppelin's first Toronto show on their inaugural North American tour. Since then, it has hosted Soundgarden, Black Sabbath, David Bowie, The Pixies, The Pogues, Smashing Pumpkins, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Tin Machine, and multiple Polaris Music Prize galas.

Under Bell Media, the building has hosted TSN's "Off the Record with Michael Landsberg," etalk, So You Think You Can Dance Canada and acted as the offices of Canadian Idol.

If it were to be sold to developers or a company outside the media industry it would mark the first time in the Masonic Temple's 95-year history that it didn't have at least some connection to music or performance of some kind.

What are your thoughts on this? Should Bell Media consider turning the Masonic Temple back into a performance space or would you rather see another use?

Photos: "IMG_6886" by TOrebelXTguy under Creative Commons license, "Masonic Temple, Yonge and Church, Toronto" by pwete from the blogTO Flickr pool.



Rob / November 7, 2012 at 09:30 am
I vote for a condo. We need more of those.
mike in parkdale / November 7, 2012 at 09:33 am
anything that isn't a condo / bank / tim hortons.

How about the Toronto Museum we've been waiting for?
Rob replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / November 7, 2012 at 09:37 am
I know - how about a condo up top with a bank and Tim Hortons behind the facade? Yea, that'll work!
Barth / November 7, 2012 at 10:03 am
City of Toronto Museum.
nicole / November 7, 2012 at 10:20 am
Ha! Went to many concerts at the Masonic Temple throughout the 80's and 90's, but I was unaware of its incarnation as the Rockpile in the 60's. Obviously the inspiration for - along with a 70's-era, so-bad-it-was-good local dance TV show - SCTV's hilarious 'Mel's Rock Pile' skits. Awesome.
PJ / November 7, 2012 at 10:27 am
I'd like to see Mike Bullard hosting a late night TV show of some kind there... I feel like this would be a proper use for the venue!
Dyemonds / November 7, 2012 at 10:43 am
A Birks jewellery store!
sean / November 7, 2012 at 11:05 am
Rob, you took my answer. Damn you.
aron / November 7, 2012 at 11:17 am
duh... condo.
lisa / November 7, 2012 at 11:34 am
Why don't they turn it back into a concert hall?
TuffyRocks / November 7, 2012 at 11:40 am
Leave it vacant for 20 years... Set it on fire.... Collect insurance money.... Sell the land to highest developer bidder... Build Condo out of "not so secure" windows.
skeeter replying to a comment from PJ / November 7, 2012 at 11:56 am
My goal in life is to have Mike Bullard ask me where I'm from.
Eric Rosedale / November 7, 2012 at 11:57 am
How about an educational institution buys the property and works some Ryerson / Maple Leaf Garden's style magic on it?

If not that, then a MEGA ADULT ENTERTAINMENT COMPLEX! (jokes, yuk-yuk... I'm serious.)
VicTO replying to a comment from mike in parkdale / November 7, 2012 at 12:27 pm
Mike...we've been waiting for that for quite some time. Agreed this is an awesome idea!

Toronto needs our own museum dedicated to our history and heritage
dvc / November 7, 2012 at 01:24 pm
I'm sure the "event space" owners in town are fighting to jump all over this one. It would make a great party space. The top floor is amazing! I would love to see it kept as a music venue, the city needs another venue this size.
iSkyscraper / November 7, 2012 at 02:00 pm
City of Toronto Museum, with a glass box condo on top to help pay for it. (Rather apropos for a building about the story of Toronto, methinks).
Khristopher / November 7, 2012 at 02:17 pm
A concert venue would be awesome!
Bev / November 7, 2012 at 04:08 pm
I have to suppose none of you folks live near Yonge and Davenport. The Masonic Temple has zero space around it, no parking, no loading - right on the street, surrounded by residential units...ergo people who want a quality of life and to be able to sleep at night. Living downtown is noisy ok but come on. The traffic is already horrendous. Something, quiet and contained as the building already depicts would be the best choice. Business from 9-5. Museum/art gallery is the best suggestion I have heard so far. A Yorkville Village type operation, dignified.
z / November 8, 2012 at 11:13 am
as a fellow resident I can't agree with the above poster's characterization of Yorkville as 'dignified' but I agree with her suggestion; something public that will culturally further the area. If this becomes the lobby for another condo then I'm losing faith and moving to the islands.
Rick / November 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm
Another Starbucks of course
mike in parkdale / November 8, 2012 at 02:35 pm
Turn it into a Stonecutters Lodge.
Marty / November 13, 2012 at 12:33 pm
Bring Back the CONCERT HALL!!!!!
Adrian / December 4, 2012 at 09:52 am
One Starbucks and dental offices Or book store coming right up
david / February 16, 2013 at 12:07 pm
masonic temple subliminal messages in rock to influence young people and others to become followers of the dark side. All know of the dark side to the masonic experience. when the music industry is housed in one of their buildings it is a slap in the face. how obvious they can be with no one doing anything about it. These people pretend to be fearless but the power of light is so much stronger, come the end days they will be vanquished.Enjoy your riches while you are able,in the end you are nothing
august / April 3, 2013 at 09:48 pm
For sure > a coffee mall burlesque hall > and condos in the air as well
august / April 3, 2013 at 09:49 pm
Canadian Tire needs more warehouse space
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