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For anyone who has driven by Salt Lake City's Masonic Temple and wondered what's behind the majestic stone staircase, towering columns and mysterious sphinx statues, the annual public tour Saturday should satisfy your curiosity.

The open house runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Guests can pick up a brochure and take a self-guided tour through the numerous rooms where volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the architecture, the history and Freemasonry, a centuries-old fraternal and charitable organization with a long colorful past in Utah. Those who take the free tour are encouraged to bring canned and nonperishable items for the Utah Food Bank.

"People drive by the building every day and we want them to come see what's inside," said Wes Ing, grandmaster of the Grand Lodge of Utah. "We're not as secretive as people think."

Built in 1927, the building is considered the state's best example of Egyptian Revival architecture, a style popularized by the discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922.

Inside there are several lounges, great and lesser halls, a banquet room and four lodge rooms. The latter are used by various masonic fraternal organizations along the Wasatch Front, including the Masons, their youth and women's auxiliaries, the Scottish Rite Masons and El Kalah Shrine. The lodge rooms are structurally identical with steps, spiral staircases, pillars and seating areas — as well as historical symbols relating to math and science — but each room has a different decorative theme, from Egyptian to Colonial and Gothic to Moorish Spain.

The auditorium, the largest room in the building, seats 900 and has an "atmospheric" domed ceiling. The dome has inlaid lights arranged as the major constellations, which allows it to mimic sunrise, sunset, twilight and the night sky.

The stage has dozens of decorative backdrop scenes, believed to be the work of Thomas Moses (1856-1934), one of America's leading scenic artists for the theater at the turn of the 20th century.

Artwork and artifacts found in the building are valued at more than $450,000 and include works by Leon Cogniet (French, 1794-1890), Henry L.A. Culmer (British, 1854-1914), Richard Murray (American, 1948-) and other renowned artists.

The Masonic Temple has been used as a set for numerous movies and television shows, including "Avenging Angel," starring Charlton Heston as Brigham Young; Disney's "Halloween Town"; and "Touched by an Angel," said John C. Liley, a past grandmaster.

He said while Freemasons each believe in their own supreme being, the organization has no ties to a specific religion or political party. Famous Masons include George Washington, Winston Churchill and Joseph Smith.

Masonic Temple tour

Learn more about Salt Lake City's Masonic Temple during an open house and tour. Volunteers will be on hand to answer questions about the architecture, design and history of the Masons; sponsored by The Grand Lodge of Utah.

When • Saturday, May 7, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Where • Masonic Temple, 650 E. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Cost • Free; guests are encouraged to bring canned and nonperishable items that will donated to the Utah Food Bank

Parking • Guests should park in the back of the building and walk around to the main entrance, where brochures for the self-guided tours will be available.

Details •