According to an article submitted to the Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times and published on February 13, 2018, on the occasion of the lodge’s 150th anniversary, there are more than 1,900 Elks lodges across the country with a total membership of nearly 800,000. Of that number, 235 members belong to the Bloomington lodge.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) Lodge No. 446 in Bloomington, Monroe County, was instituted on June 16, 1898. Two years later the organization purchased the “commodious, brick residence of Aaron Rose on South Walnut Street” for the lodge’s new home. A two-story extension for “amusement rooms” was added in 1905.
As the population of Monroe County grew, so did the Elks membership. By 1921, they had nearly outgrown their existing home. With an eye to the future, they purchased the property of Dr. P. C. Holland at Walnut and Seventh Street as a site for a new home. Unfortunately, it was some years later before they had the money to construct a building.
A committee of the Bloomington Elks members was established in 1928 to put together a prospectus for the proposed new home. They intended to have a meeting of all Monroe County Elks to decide on just what they wanted in the way of a new club house. It was expected that $50,000 would be raised at the meeting. A dozen men had already promised to give from $500 to $1,000.
In the midst of the fundraising, our country fell under a Great Depression from which it took several years to recover. Meantime, in 1932, a decision was made to remodel their existing home with new paint, new draperies and some new furniture including a new pool table.
It wasn’t until 1938 that the Elks completed the existing building that they yet call home. Through the years, however, it seemed to have outlived its usefulness and was in need of many expensive updates to make it modern. For a while there was even talk of razing the building and constructing a new one. But in 2009 the City Council took the necessary steps to protect the building by having it designated as a historic structure. Today it is a visible reminder of Bloomington’s heritage.
Blog post by Randi Richardson
Bloomington (IN) Courier, March 13, 1900, p. 1.
Bloomington (IN) Telephone, April 14, 1905, p. 1.
Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone, May 19, 1921, reprinted in Sands of Time, Bloomington Herald Telephone, May 19, 1971. (See Reel 12, Local History Microfilm Collection, Monroe County Public Library)
Bloomington (IN) Telephone, March 28, 1928, p. 1.
Bloomington (IN) Telephone, March 2, 1932, p. 1.
Bloomington o(IN) Herald Telephone, February 24, 1951, p. 11.
Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times, April 20, 2009, pp. A1+.
“Demolition Delay” City of Bloomington Common Council, Legislative Packet, Regular Session, October 21, 2009.
Bloomington (IN) Herald-Times, February 13, 2008, p. B7