Historic Santa Ana building sold to Scientologists

Orange County Register/April 12, 2006
By Marlo Jo Fisher and Amy Taxin

Santa Ana — The Church of Scientology is purchasing the 75-year-old historic Masonic Temple in downtown Santa Ana from entrepreneur Mike Harrah, both sides confirmed today.

Escrow should close “within a week or so,” church spokeswoman Marie Murillo said. She declined to say how much the church will pay for the structure, which was restored several years ago and has been serving as a performing arts center.

Harrah, who had previously denied he was selling it to the church, said he has a backup offer should escrow fall through.

Local preservationist Tim Rush was unhappy today about the sale, saying his feelings were echoed by other members of the Santa Ana Historical Preservation Society.

Rush said he nominated Harrah for a preservation award because he was excited about the long-vacant, derelict building being restored. He credited Harrah with saving the building, but was unhappy its changing hands.

“To see that buiding now being sold to a cult religion with the nature of Scientology is very upsetting,” Rush said.

Murillo said she was unaware of any controversy over the sale, and the church plans to keep the façade and its historic properties. The building will be used as a church and meeting place, replacing the church’s Orange County facility at the corner of Irvine Blvd and Tustin.

“We like Santa Ana and plan to be involved in the community here,” she said.

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