The unadorned building stands between Laurel and Volunteer residence halls, and more than one student has wondered what exactly happens in the Scottish Rite Temple.Some admit they are a bit perturbed by the whole thing.
Informational pamphlets inside the lobby explain that the Scottish Rites are "a fraternity of good fellows, engaged in the benevolent practices of friendship and relief," one of several appendant groups of the international fraternity, Freemasonry.
Mack Suits, a junior in communication studies and psychology, found the organization to be rather lacking in benevolence on a recent exploratory visit to the 16th street landmark.
"I thought it was very interesting, because when I walked up to it, the doors were locked and I had to press a button to get in," Suits said. "And then, once I got in, there was not really anyone there ... I went in to the office, no one would speak to me ... I had to speak up to one of the ladies — she wasn't very excited to see me."
After admitting his purpose was purely curiosity to the woman, Suits said he was denied access to any sort of temple tour.
"I think my lack of interest in becoming a Mason is what made her want me to leave," Suits said.
It seems fitting that the Scottish Rite came to Knoxville in 1945, joining a community that already boasted several fraternal chapters at the time. After purchasing land adjacent to the university, they began construction on the temple in 1953. In the years since, campus has expanded into the neighborhood surrounding the structure.
Karleigh Bloomer, a junior in biological sciences, said it gives her an eerie vibe.
"I guess it's just kind of different and weird because it is such a mystery ... the fact that it's near the middle of campus yet not many people know what it is and you don't really hear about it that much, it's really odd," Bloomer said. "It's definitely odd because it is so secretive and so mysterious. It's not out in the open, like some other organizations are."
She shared that, for the most part, she thinks the temple is disconnected from campus and does not affect campus life because many students are not involved in Freemasonry. The group is exclusive to adult men.
Jake Darlington, junior in business analytics with a collateral in marketing, had a great-grandfather who was a Freemason.
"He didn't really talk that much about it, and I only knew him until I was nine years old; but I do remember my mom talking to me about it," Darlington said.
Despite the best efforts of blockbuster films like 2004's "National Treasure," Darlington suspects the organization is more or less harmless.
"You know, with every secret society ... you get the stories of grandeur, because conspiracy lives in secrecy," he said. "While the (Masons) could be all that pop culture has tatted them up to be, and more, I would just say that the masons are most likely a goodhearted fraternal order that keeps its meetings secret for the sake of tradition, but really they haven't been the cause of everything we think they have been the cause of."