SCRANTON -- The Scranton Cultural Center is one of the areas most iconic buildings. You may have been there for a show, a wedding or a fundraiser, but many people forget about the driving force behind the center, the Masons.
The cultural center is not just a theater. It's a Masonic Temple that's still used by Masons today.
The section of the building used by Masons in our area was just recently renovated and unveiled.
We got an inside look, and we also got a lesson about who the Masons really are.
The third floor of the Scranton Cultural Center is a place not many people have seen over the years. It houses Craftsman Hall, one of the rooms still used by the Masons.
“They hold their meetings here, they have their ceremonies here, and above all, they come here for fellowship and brotherhood, and that's what makes our fraternity so unique,” said Michael Slavich of the Masonic Temple Scottish Rite Association.
A Masonic temple is any meeting place for any lodge or chapter of the Philanthropic Men's Organization.
Slavich said there are thousands of active Masons in northeastern Pennsylvania.
You'll find pictures, awards, and other artifacts from Masons who have gathered in the building since 1929.
We became the first news crew to shoot video inside the walls of the two ornate meeting rooms, but Slavich insists it's not as secretive as you might think.
“We have no secrets. Just like the Greek college fraternities, we shake hands in a unique way, we have unique passwords. Everything else is open. I can take you anywhere in this building, and I can explain to you anything you want to do,” said Slavich.
One of the biggest myths, said Slavich, is that freemasonry is a religion.
There's even an altar in the middle of the meeting room, but he said the only requirement to join the Masons is that you believe in one God.
He said the altar is there simply to pray to that god as part of meetings and events. He said confusion long ago contributed to the secrecy.
“People didn't know what they joined. So if they couldn't understand and they couldn't explain what they joined, they kept their mouth shut. All of a sudden it was a secret organization,” said Slavich.
Masons donate millions of dollars to charities each year. Slavich said the very existence of the Scranton Cultural Center speaks to the giving spirit of the Masons.
“Not only to meet their needs, as a meeting hall and banquet hall, but to give to the people of Scranton, and northeastern Pennsylvania a place that they could have their cultural shows,” said Slavich.
If you're a man, at least 21 years old, interested in joining the Masons, you can get more information by calling 1-800-462-0430.