Elk’s Club

Duluth’s Elks Club Hall. (Image: Zenith City Press)
309 – 311 West 1st Street | Architect: Edwin Radcliffe and Vernon Price | Built: 1906 | Extant

This is a striking three-story reinforced concrete Classical Revival style building constructed in 1906 as a lodge for the Elk’s Club at a cost of $150,000. As constructed, the first floor storefront was divided into two large bays by a central narrow, square cast iron column and two massive square pillars at the sides. The two openings were filled by the typical large storefront windows, with cast iron bulkheads, prism light transom panels, and a recessed entries. A renovation at an unknown date eliminated virtually all of the original storefront system, covering it with solid infill panels, a small fixed aluminum frame window, and aluminum frame doors.

Four freestanding fluted Doric columns dominate the second and third floors, supporting a cornice of triglyphs and metopes with guttae with a vertical seamed metal paneling. The three bays formed by the columns are handled differently at each floor. The second floor retains its original wood frame fixed windows topped by divided light transoms with muntins arranged in a Roman grill pattern. The outer bays hold three windows, while the center bay has two large windows. The third floor window openings are intact, but the 1/1 double hung wood windows were replaced with new fixed aluminum frame windows. The outer bay contains three openings, two windows flanking a door and transom, which appear to be original. The central bay has two pairs of windows with no door opening. Projecting semicircular porches are supported in each bay of the third floor, but the historic curved decorative cast iron railing was removed and replaced with a simple, straight metal railing. The historic projecting coping supported by a row of shallow brackets was covered at an unknown date by vertical standing seam metal panels.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was started by a group of New York actors and entertainers in 1867 so they could get together for a drink on Sundays, an act prohibited by New York’s “blue laws.” When one of the group died, leaving his family destitute, they became a benevolent society. Why “Elk”? Because “the elk is a peaceful animal, but will rise in defense of its own in the face of a threat.” The Elks left their hall in 1975. The building has since lost its ornate façade. Before they got serious as a benevolent society, the Elks called themselves the “Jolly Corks” after a drinking game their founder enjoyed.