Elks Lodge interior as intriguing, vivid with history as its outside
If you drive by the Elks Lodge at Fourth Street and Ute Avenue and think you would like to see inside, you will have that chance Saturday, when the Elks host a benefit concert to support the Legends Historic Sculptures Project.
Here is information I have compiled from a history written by Joseph D. Abell and Donald J. Dufford, members of the Grand Junction Lodge 575 B.P.O.E, for the group’s 50th anniversary May 25, 1950.
May 25, 1900, was the beginning of Lodge 575, B.P.O. Elks in Grand Junction. Because the Elks had yet to build their own home, the meeting took place in the IOOF Hall in a building between Four and Fifth streets on the north side of Main Street.
A committee to study the feasibility of a new Elks home was formed in August 1901.
In 1902, the owner of the Park Opera House offered to sell the opera house to the lodge. The committee that had been formed to explore this idea recommended “the postponement of action on the offer, due to the unsettled condition of the town of Grand Junction, the railroad and the oil business.”
It was noted by the authors of this history that 50 years later “the railroad is still unsettled and the citizens of the community are still looking forward to a gusher in every backyard.”
Amusingly, this still, in a fashion, rings true 100 years later.
In May 1904, the first committee was formed to handle funds for building a new Elks home. That committee started with $1,375 and in November of that year was given another $500.
There was some debate over where the new building should be constructed. Some members wanted it on property the lodge owned between Fifth and Sixth on Main Street. Others wanted to purchase the property at Fourth and Ute, where the Grand Junction Planing Mill Co. and P.A. Rice Lumber Co. were.
The location at Fourth and Ute finally was selected and, in June 1912, the lots were purchased. In October, the construction contract was awarded to R.A. Matthews of Pueblo for $37,490. The first construction steps were taken during the last few days of 1912.
Dec. 31, 1913, was decided as the date for the grand opening, and it was reported to be a gala affair. Dancing and merrymaking carried through until dawn.
The final cost of the new Elks home, including furniture and fixtures, was $79,815.31. The home had specially designed doorknobs, light fixtures and a fish pond with a fountain in the Palm Room.
The building had a central vacuum cleaning system with wall outlets throughout for easy cleaning.
In March 1914, Barney Oldfield, a nationally known car racer, was persuaded to come to Grand Junction by the lodge to raise funds to help pay for the new home.
A race was staged between Mr. Oldfield, driving an automobile, and Lincoln Beachey, flying an airplane. Oilfield and his car won the race.
The Elks have always made their home available to organizations needing space for different functions.
During World War I, the Elks offered the U.S. government the use of the home for whatever purpose it might be needed. When Mesa College was in the old Lowell School, students used the lodge room for their annual soiree and other affairs.
In earlier days, it was often the site of women’s organization teas, music recitals and other social events.
During World War II, every weekend would find sailors from the hospital in Glenwood Springs or the Hotel Colorado, ski troopers from Camp Hale or boys home on leave enjoying the facilities at the lodge.
At the end of World War II, the Elks membership increased and the members decided to remodel and enlarge the building.
Saturday is your chance to see the interior of this beauty. Tours start when the doors open at 6 p.m.
Flat Top Reed will perform from 7 to 8 p.m., followed by Stray Grass from 8 to 10 p.m.
Kathy Jordan is retired from The Daily Sentinel and involved in many preservation efforts, including the railroad depot and the North Seventh Street Historic Residential District.