Best Vestibule

Masonic Temple of California

When you're waiting for the 90 at Van Ness and Market at 3 in the morning, it's a distracting pleasure to contemplate the old Masonic Temple across the street. Erected in 1911 by the architecture firm of Bliss & Faville and renovated in 1985, the building has the stately yet rococo resplendence of a distant era. Its vestibule is especially arresting. A tremendous arched entryway is done up in bas-relief leaf patterns, scrolls, stars, curlicues, and what appear to be artichokes. Above, a mother and child are flanked by Hellenic toga-wearers, and two muscular bear cubs support the whole megillah across their shoulders. The vestibule itself is accessible via a heavy iron gate and features intricate scroll-motif detailing and a towering half-domed ceiling. The lobby beyond is a long, echoing chamber with high vaulted ceilings, hanging lanterns gilded to suggest medieval times, and iconography in its wainscoting. Outside, adjacent to the five vaulted windows and the multicolored tilework, another Greek maiden in a flowing gown stands atop a pedestal, looking out at Van Ness and Market, just like the rest of us.

 
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