A Building for the Community

A Building for the Community


The History of the Mosaic Templars of America Building

The National Grand Temple of the Mosaic Templars of America served as an important commercial and community center for African Americans in Little Rock between 1913 and 1939. It was built under the leadership of Mosaic Templars Grand Master William Alexander on land purchased at the corner of West Ninth Street and Broadway in 1912.

More than 2,000 people gathered to hear Booker T. Washington dedicate the new building October 15, 1913. The new, multipurpose three-story structure had retail space on the bottom floor for businesses such as Dr. W.O. Foster's pharmacy, second-floor office space for professionals, and a third-floor auditorium for community events. The Mosaic Templars subsequently built two more structures along Broadway: the Annex in 1918 (burned in 1984), and the State Temple in 1921.

The Mosaic Templars, after going into receivership in 1930, ceased to have a presence in the National Grand Temple. In the 1930s the building was occupied by a few black professionals, including Dr. John M. Robinson and attorney John H. Hibbler. From the 1940s into the 1990s, the National Grand Temple was occupied by an automotive supply company, a moving and transport company, and an upholstery shop. At times, it sat vacant.

By the late 20th century, the National Grand Temple was in disrepair and threatened by demolition from developers. The Society for the Preservation of the Mosaic Templars of America Building was formed in 1992 to save the building. Their efforts, along with the support of the Arkansas Legislative Black Caucus, led to the creation of the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in 2001. While under renovation, the National Grand Temple was destroyed by fire in March 2005.The Department of Arkansas Heritage began to build a new structure for the Mosaic Templars Cultural Center in 2006 on the original site.

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