THE POMONA MASONIC TEMPLE IS READY
By Ian A. Stewart
It’s Perry Mason, with an emphasis on Mason.
The famously silver-tongued attorney of the screen is getting a prestige-TV reboot, one that eagle-eyed members of the fraternity may recognize for more than just its Raymond Burr nostalgia. That’s because part of the upcoming show, which is being produced by HBO, is being shot on location at the Pomona Masonic Temple.
The show, which does not yet have an announced premiere date, is set in 1932 and features a younger version of novelist Erle Stanley Gardner’s literary defense lawyer scratching out a living in Depression-era Los Angeles. Hence the inclusion of the period-appropriate red-brick Pomona Temple, which was designed by architect Ferdinand Davis in 1909 and features distinctive terra-cotta detailing on the cornice and roof, above striking white lettering reading “Masonic Temple.”
According to Jonathan Jansen, the location manager for HBO, the temple’s original architectural detailing was a huge selling point for the production crew, which shot inside the hall this summer. (We hear a small office is being used as Perry Mason’s.) A few cosmetic concessions to the time period were all that stood between the three-story edifice and its TV turn. “We removed the carpet to reveal the hardwood floors, which we had cleaned and buffed,” Jansen says. “We removed and replaced signage and lighting that wasn’t in our world, and we painted some of the trim to bring the space closer to our color palette.” Otherwise, the temple served as a time portal to the 1930s.
The building has a history to match its stately facade. For more than a century, it housed Pomona Lodge No. 246, Compass No. 590, and other Masonic bodies. Constructed for $30,000, it underwent a $25,000 expansion in 1926, and in 2009, Grand Master Kenneth Nagel recognized the building’s centennial with a rededication ceremony. Today, the temple serves as a meeting space for Chino Valley Lodge No. 427.
Since 2017, the temple has been managed by Grand Lodge, which put the property on the market this year. The Perry Mason revival won’t be the building’s first appearance on film, either: It was also featured on the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures.
In fact, California Masonic lodge buildings have found their way onto screens before. In addition to the myriad shows and films dealing with Freemasonry—often apocryphally— the square and compass have frequently found their way onto location scouts’ shortlists. Curiously enough, one of the most filmed lodges in California is not in La-La- Land but rather Petaluma, where the Petaluma Masonic Hall showed up in the 2001 Jim Carrey flick The Majestic and, in 1986, in Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married. “The Masons have a great catalog of properties throughout the area,” Jansen says. “And they’re always very welcoming to film crews.”