The Masonic Temple Association was incorporated in Detroit in 1894. It moved into its first temple, on Lafayette Boulevard at First Street, in 1896. Outgrowing these quarters, the Association purchased land on Bagg Street (now Temple Avenue) to build a new temple that would also include a public theater. Fund-raising for construction of the building raised $2.5 million (equivalent to $30.54 million in 2017), and ground-breaking took place on Thanksgiving Day, 1920. The cornerstone was placed on September 19, 1922, using the same trowel that George Washington had used to set the cornerstone of the United States Capitol in Washington D.C.. The building was dedicated on Thanksgiving Day, 1926.
The horseshoe-shaped auditorium originally had a capacity of 5,000. Due to poor sight lines along the sides of the stage, nearly 600 seats were removed (or never used), reducing maximum seating to 4,404.
In April 2013, the building was reported to be in foreclosure over $152,000 in back taxes owed to Wayne County. The debt was paid off in May 2013, and in June 2013, it was revealed that $142,000 of the bill was footed by singer-songwriter Jack White, a Detroit native known for his work with The White Stripes. He wanted to help the temple in its time of need as they had helped his mother in a time of need: the temple gave her a job as an usher in the theater when she was struggling to find work. In response, the Detroit Masonic Temple Association renamed its Scottish Rite cathedral the Jack White Theater.
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