There are signs in the parking lot of the Scottish Rite Cathedral marking spaces that are reserved for the county’s 911 center.
Just one thing — the center hasn’t been in The Cathedral since 2016, when a new public safety building opened in Hickory Township.
Nonetheless, the signs serve as a reminder of how The Cathedral has welcomed the community into its confines over the years.
At its opening, The Cathedral — which in 1926 replaced what is now known as the Temple Building as the home of local Scottish Rite Masonry — was billed as having the largest stage between New York and Chicago. Today, it still plays host to concerts, shows, movies and other gatherings. But when the local Masons who call it home gathered there Saturday to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Valley of New Castle Consistory, Robert T. Cummings shared some other ways in which the massive North Hill structure that is nearly as old as its founding organization has been shared with its neighbors.
He noted that a duckpin bowling alley beneath the East Dining Room was converted to a civil defense shelter during the Cold War Era, and some of the relics it once housed remain. Later, it was opened to the Boys Scouts, who used the space for target practice.
“And they must have needed the practice,” said Cummings, who teamed with Dale Perelman to write a book about the Cathedral’s history. “Even today, that back wall is just full of holes that are way above the level where any targets would have been.”
The building also has been used by state police for training, he said, and today it is still available to be used as a shelter in case of a local disaster. It also will open its doors to New Castle High students and staff should their building, one block east, ever need to be evacuated.
In addition, the Scottish Rite operates a Children’s Dyslexia Center inside The Cathedral.
The featured guest speaker at Saturday's dinner was David A. Glattly, sovereign grand commander of the Northern Masonic District. Others who addressed the audience included W. Thomas Marlowe Jr., local commander in chief; William L. McCarrier, Active Emeritus; and Keith E. Parkinson, Active State of Pennsylvania.
Howard Long was presented with the Masonic Service Award, and attendees who were veterans as well as Masons received special recognition as well.
Although the purpose of the gathering was to mark the April 17, 1919, beginnings of the Valley of New Castle Consistory — which serves 10 western Pennsylvania counties — speakers also urged their listeners to continue working to ensure the future of Scottish Rite Masonry and to support all Masonic organizations and programs.
McCarrier referenced the founders of the consistory a century ago, and the vision they followed.
“Think about the vision they had to start the Scottish Rite in New Castle, Pennsylvania,” he said. “Think about the vision they had to build a building like this just a few years later. Think about the faith they had that they could pay for this building, that they could build a fraternity and maintain this building for 100 years.
“They had faith not only in themselves, they had faith in us. They knew that 100 years from then, that we would be here, and that it would be up to us to carry on this fraternity. They are no longer here. Members of this Valley, especially the officers, you are driving now. It’s up to you officers to drive this fraternity and carry it forward another 100 years — maybe 200. We need Scottish Rite to survive; we need all Masonic lines to survive.”
McCarrier cited such Masonic charities such as Shriner hospitals, dyslexia centers and Masonic homes, not to mention the fellowship Masons enjoy, as vital reasons to carry on the efforts begun locally 100 years ago.
“We have to bring in new members, new Masons,” he said. “That’s what we have to do. We have to realize that we are the drivers, not the guys who are long gone from 100 years ago. We have to drive this train, we have to keep it moving.”