Old National Centre
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Largest Shriner Temple in the USA
Wonder what exactly the Arabic-inspired building on Mass Ave could possibly be, I set off to investigate and found an answer stranger than I would have thought. This building was owned by the Murat Shriners of the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine, which frankly sounds like the hokiest nonsense I’ve ever heard. (No offense, Shriners.) For those who are not American or have never attended an American parade, Shriners are a sort-of offshoot of Freemasons who describe themselves as “a fraternity based on fun, fellowship, and the Masonic principles of brotherly love, relief, and truth”. While they do good work with their Shriners Hospitals for Children (who accept patients regardless of their ability to pay), they’re most well-known for wearing red fezzes and driving around in tiny cars. No, I am not making this up. A bit about the building itself: The Old National Centre/Murat Shrine is the largest Shriner temple in the United States. The building is the oldest stage house in downtown Indianapolis, having been completed in 1909. The Murat Shrine holds the distinctive honor of giving the Indianapolis Zoo its first camel. I’m glad I set out for the oddly Arabic building jutting above the other standard buildings to learn about its interesting if vaguely unsettling appropriation of another culture’s architecture and culture. I mean really, who would could have imagined such a thing existed smack dab in the middle of Indianapolis? Not I.
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