Fundraiser will help create more Legends sculptures
If the white Corinthian columns that support the grand staircase in the historic Elks Lodge No. 575 could talk, it’s likely they wouldn’t whisper a word about the service organization’s well-known members and the honorable things they have done to support the Grand Junction community over the past 100 years.
Keeping a low profile has been a hallmark of the Elks, and few outsiders have had the opportunity to wander the halls of the sprawling, elegant lodge.
The lodge, however, will open its doors at 6 p.m. Saturday as a fundraiser for The Legends Historic Sculptures Project, an effort that commissions sculptures of past Grand Junction leaders.
Three sculptures of historical community figures have been commissioned and created so far by The Legends Project: Hollywood 10 member Dalton Trumbo, former Daily Sentinel publisher Walter Walker, and Fair Store owner and swimming pool donor William Moyer.
Three more sculptures are scheduled for production: St. Mary’s Hospital founder Sister Mary Balbina, Colorado National Monument advocate John Otto and the Operation Foresight planners, who in the 1960s turned Main Street into a serpentine, pedestrian-friendly shopping center.
Cost to check out the lodge is $10 per person, and admission includes a tour of the extraordinary three-story building, plus entertainment and dancing in the grand ballroom by bands Flat Top Reed and Stray Grass.
“The project is about keeping these stories alive,” said Tillie Bishop, chairman of The Legends Project and past exalted ruler of the Elks Lodge.
“We can recapture some of the history of those who founded this place,” Bishop said, while looking up at the original stained glass dome inset into the ceiling of the Elks’ meeting room.
Hundreds of names of deceased members, many wielding great influence at one time, line the ceiling of the room.
Bishop said the lodge has been a stalwart supporter of the community, and this event seemed a fitting fundraiser to support.
The lodge was built in 1913. Many of the rooms have been restored and dedicated to preserving and showcasing the accomplishments of past members.
Remembering those members is such an important ritual within the Elks Lodge that current members pay respect to the deceased by having an Eleventh Hour Toast at 11 on meeting nights and during social functions.
A clock in the meeting room is stopped at the 11 o’clock hour and serves as a reminder for members to honor the dead.
Lodge trustee Nick DeMercurio explained that the Grand Junction lodge originally was used by railroad workers who came to socialize and relax with their families. The library room pays tribute to these members by displaying photographs, trophies and leather-bound books.
“A lot of big names used to play here,” Bishop said, while gesturing to the stage in the grand ballroom. Old black-and-white photographs show Elks members and their wives dancing in days gone by.
Bishop said that in the past, each floor would host a band, making the party extend three floors up.
While membership has been waning for the past 20 years, DeMercurio said he hopes that in addition to helping The Legends Project, the event will help the public become more familiar with what the Elks Lodge is about.
The Elks’ mission is about helping the community, honoring veterans and supporting youth through scholarships. It’s about God and country, Bishop said.
Bishop encourages anyone interested in becoming an Elks member — men and women are welcome to join — to attend Saturday’s event.
There will be a cash bar, taco bar and legendary margarita special, and proceeds will support the club.
No reservations are necessary. For information, call 640-5350 or 260-8130.