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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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Theater marquee (J. Draeger photo)

Front facade

Masonic Temple Building
116 South Main Street, Viroqua, Vernon County
Architects: Parkinson and Dockendorff
Dates of Construction: 1921-1922

The Masonic Temple Building is an unusual two-story, mixed use building constructed 1921-1922 to the designs of La Crosse architects, Parkinson and Dockendorff. The Classical Revival style building is faced in cream brick, and trimmed with Bedford limestone. On the first floor, the Temple Theater is flanked by commercial storefront spaces on either side; while the second floor houses the La Belle Masonic Lodge #84. The noted Odin Oyen interior design firm of La Crosse decorated the Egyptian-influenced lodge rooms reflecting America's fascination with the discovery of the tomb of Tutankhamun. Its imaginative 1920s décor remains intact, with wall decorations and period furnishings, all in the Egyptian style. The building¿s ties with the Masonic fraternal organization are seen in the Masonic emblems on the second story of the exterior.

The La Belle Lodge constructed this building after fire destroyed their previous lodge in 1920 and included a theater and shops on the first floor to provide additional revenue. Viroqua¿s lodge was a powerful social institution, and claimed a membership that included most of the business and professional men in the community.

From the time of its opening, the first floor Temple Theater was an important community gathering place. In addition to movies, it was the site of lectures and concerts, taking over many of the activities originally held at the community opera house. Its original Classical Revival style theater interior was remodeled in the Art Deco style in 1931; the current marquee also dates from this period. Further renovations to the theater took place in the mid-1930s. While movies assumed a more important entertainment role in the 1930s, the theater continued to host live performances.

After years of neglect, and resulting damage to the building, restoration and repair began in 1994.

The Temple Theater is open to the public for performances and events.

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