Brief History of the Shrine
Two Masons in New York City founded the Shrine. William J. Florence, an actor, and Walter M. Fleming, a physician, talked about having an organization in which Masons could set aside the woes of the world and have a good time. During a visit to France, Florence attended a party given by the Arabian Council. He was so impressed with the pomp and color of the entertainment that upon his return to New York he gave Fleming a detailed account. Fleming , a 33rd degree Mason and a Knight Templar, contrived the ritual for the new organization.
Florence, Fleming, and 11 Masonic friends met on June 16, 1872 to lay the ground work for the Organization that would admit to membership only Knights Templar and 32nd Degree Scottish Rite Masons. On September 26, 1872, the 13 men assembled to formally organize Mecca Temple in New York City.
Membership in Mecca Temple grew and other Temples blossomed into being. By the time the Imperial Grand Council was formed in June, 1878, there were five additional Temples, including Al Koran Temple in Cleveland and Syrian Temple in Cincinnati.