The Church of Scientology is buying Santa Ana’s former Masonic Temple.
SANTA ANA – Developer Mike Harrah is selling Santa Ana’s historic downtown Masonic Temple, which he spent millions restoring as a performing-arts center, to the Church of Scientology.
The sale has drawn the ire of some historic preservationists.
The building is one of four that Harrah said he’s selling to raise money to build his high-rise tower downtown.
Church spokeswoman Marie Murillo said the building is being purchased for an undisclosed price because the 1,500-member Orange County church is growing and needs more space.
“We like the historic building and we thought it was very attractive,” Murillo said “We have bought historic structures all around the world.”
Tim Rush, a vice president of the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society, said he might not have nominated Harrah for a preservation award if he’d known he planned to sell the building in only a few years.
“It’s very upsetting, and a lot of people are very distressed at the idea of that building being sold to the Scientologists,” Rush said. “It’s one of the finest examples of art deco moderne in the county.”
The Church of Scientology, which includes Tom Cruise and John Travolta as celebrity members, was founded by science-fiction author L. Ron Hubbard in the 1950s.
No exterior renovations are planned, Murillo said, although the interior will be remodeled somewhat. The building will be used for classes, counseling sessions, weddings, Sunday services and other church events, she said, and will be made available for community events.
The church owns historic buildings in Spain, San Francisco and Hollywood. “We’re very good at renovating them and making them really pretty,” Murillo said.
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