Cathedral looks to upgrade facility, reacquaint community with its importance

The Scottish Rite Cathedral is shown not long after its completion. 

Here are some facts and history about the Scottish Rite Cathedral.

*It opened in 1926, built by local Masons at a cost of $1.6 million

*Originally, The Cathedral was to be built half a block south and facing the downtown, but ground issues forced its relocation half a block north, and a 180-degree turn so that it faces Lincoln Avenue. Even with the move, 916 concrete pillars had to be placed in the ground to support the 168,271-square foot building.

*The relocation left The Cathedral with two anomalies: a set of steps and a stage door that both go nowhere. The steps, which can be seen on the left as one goes up the North Mill Street hill, were intended to lead to a massive front porch facing the downtown. The relocation and the 180-degree turn of the building left them as little more than an artifact of a plan that never came to fruition. The same goes for what had been intended to be the stage door, which would have been at ground level on the hillside had The Cathedral been built according to original plans. Now, it opens only onto a three-story drop and a spectacular view of downtown New Castle. 

*Originally, the auditorium featured 2,892 seats, but some were removed to create a booth at the rear of the room, while others that were behind support columns also were taken out. The capacity now is 2,850.

*The mammoth light board back stage is original to the building, and believed to be the only one of its kind still in use in the U.S. The 12-by-8-foot board has dozens of levers and nearly 2,000 switches.

*The Moeller organ, also original to the building, has more than 3,700 metal and wooden pipes, ranging from a few inches to 32 feet in length, according to a book published by Cathedral Foundation members Rob Cummings and Dale Perelman. The organ is believed to be the only Moeller player pipe organ in existence and although the player unit is operational, the 47 rolls are brittle and are not often used. However, Cathedral Foundation president James McKim said, “I’ve heard the 1812 Overture done here from a roll, and the building vibrates because it’s capable of playing more than what six people could play at the same time. Totally awesome.”

*The organ console is on a lift, enabling it to be raised to stage level, or to be dropped down out of sight into the pit.

*A system of 60 backstage ropes is used to change scenery and backdrops. Recently, the foundation purchased a digital backdrop projection system, although it has yet to be used extensively.

*All of the building’s lighting fixtures are original to the building. There are three chandeliers in the auditorium. The center one weighs in at 2,300 pounds and the side ones are 1,500 each. All three must be cranked down by hand from the rafters for maintenance. “One turn on the crank is one inch to raise or lower it,” McKim said. “They’re not counter-weighted, so to raise them, it’s a two-person job.”

*2 million common bricks were used in construction of The Cathedral, along with 600,000 face bricks. There are 436 doors, 210 windows, 40  stage lights, 165 border lights and 88 footlights.

*The Cathedral’s appraised value has been set at nearly $70 million.

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