Written by Aaron-Michael Fox.
For more than 100 years, the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks Lodge has been a familiar structure on the Old Main Corridor. But now, that structure is getting a facelift, and a heart transplant, and liposuction, and…you know what? This metaphor might not be working all that well.
It might seem weird to assign body parts to a building, but you get my point. The Elks Lodge is getting an overhaul—new owners, new inside, new outside, new everything. To wax philosophically, the building will have a new purpose in existing, thanks to Bob Gleason and David Ray of B&D Realty.
The Huntington Elks first opened the doors to the Fourth Avenue building on January 28, 1910. That’s 108 years ago, a long time by anyone’s reckoning. News reports from the time say that a canon was fired as the American flag was raised for the first time on the roof. More than 1,200 people attended a dance in the third floor ballroom that night.
With a storied history that goes back to January 1, 1895, the Huntington Elks Club had more than 2,000 members at its peak in the 1950s. But now, the membership has fallen to less than 500.
“That doesn’t give us the kind of money required to continue operating and maintaining a building as large as ours,” Dan Goheen, Exalted Ruler of the Huntington Elks Lodge, told the Herald-Dispatch in 2016.
At one time, the Elks hosted a restaurant in the basement that served lunch to members as well as to the public, but that failed over time. “We found we were losing money on our lunch business, so we had to shut it down,” Goheen said.
In April of 2017, the Elks opted to sell the building to B&D Realty for $275,000. B&D is working with the West Virginia Division of Culture and History’s State Historic Preservation Office to maintain the building’s status as a historic landmark as they redevelop it into a luxury apartment building at an estimated cost of more than $1 million.
“I think the history of the building will attract a lot of people,” Bob Gleason said in 2017. “There are a lot of people trying to move to the downtown area, and we thought this would be a great addition to the community.”
Once completed, the building will house 9-12 luxury apartments. The first apartments are expected to open in the fall of 2018.
The Huntington Elks will not be made homeless by this move, nor will they be closing their chapter. “We will simply relocate,” Goheen said. “Our charitable efforts have not slowed down over the years, and we intend to keep those up.”
You can check out all of the Elks’ charitable programs HERE.
For now, the Elks are borrowing their meeting space from the Huntington Chapter of the Knights of Columbus.
To be eligible for membership in the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, you must be a citizen of the United States over the age of 21 who believes in God. You can be sponsored by any member in good standing from any lodge in the country. You’ll also need two other Elks to be your references. The Elk who proposes you for membership will provide you with a copy of the membership application.