Admission by Fez
Image by John T. Mendes provided courtesy of The Historic New Orleans Collection, Gift of Waldemar S. Nelson, 2003.0182.67

A large group of onlookers gathers at 1137 St. Charles Ave. to see the Jerusalem Temple cornerstone being laid. The building was completed in 1918 and the Shriners used the building until 1995. Current owners Church of the King use the property for outreach services and have plans in place for the restoration of the building.

The New Orleans chapter of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (more usually referred to as Shriners) commissioned a new 38,000-square-foot building to be built at the corner of St. Charles Ave. and Clio St. The cornerstone of the Jerusalem Temple was laid on Dec 2, 1916, and inspired a celebration that brought visiting Shriners from five other Southern cities.

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Many of the visiting Shriners arrived via train on Saturday morning before the parade through the Business District at 2 p.m. K&B founding partner Sidney J. Besthoff, chairman of the decorating committee, asked downtown businesses and private homes to decorate in the Masonic colors of red, green and yellow. 

The parade was led by a mounted escort upon a camel (brought to New Orleans by the Memphis delegates), followed by about 2000 marchers. Each of the five visiting groups was in the parade, with the Atlanta faction comprising the largest group. Several hundred members of the New Orleans delegation were the last in line, with their bands and drum and bugle corps. 

The laying of the cornerstone ceremony started after the parade ended and involved music, singing, prayer, reading of rituals and short speeches from Mayor Behrman and various Shriners. The cornerstone was placed in the northwest corner, settled in place with a ceremonial trowel made of engraved silver and decorated with a ruby, an emerald and a gold medallion portraying the likeness of Henry Niedringhaus, Imperial Potentate. 

Corn, wine, and oil – symbolizing health, prosperity, and peace – were scattered over the cornerstone in a Masonic ritual used in consecration ceremonies. Underneath was placed a copper box containing a copy of the purchase documents, Shrine proceedings, coins, the day’s newspaper and the Square of Compass. 

On Sunday, local Shriners that owned automobiles were recruited to drive their visitors around the city to see the sights, including the French Quarter and City and Audubon Parks. Their tours would end at the Fair Grounds, where a feast of oysters and other local foods was combined with band concerts and patrol drills: “Admission will be by card and fez.”