Palo Alto Elks unveil new lodge

Elks hope new facility will attract younger members

Opening the door to what they hope will be a new era for their 88-year-old organization, members of the Palo Alto Elks unveiled their 40,000- square-foot lodge at 4249 El Camino Real Saturday afternoon.

The beige and gray structure south of Charleston Road -- dominated by an open grid-like design with corrugated-metal features and tinted windows -- stands in sharp contrast to the former, hulking, wood-paneled lodge, which dated back to 1942.

State Sen. Joe Simitian and Palo Alto Mayor Sid Espinosa participated in Saturday's ribbon-cutting ceremony, along with dozens of Elks.

"This is a place that both has been part of Palo Alto's history and will be part of Palo Alto's future. This is a lodge that has reinvented itself for the 21st century," Simitian said. "It will help to build community over the coming years. We often take that for granted."

Like many fraternal and service organizations across the nation, the Palo Alto Elks saw its membership decline late in the last century. Where membership once topped 3,500 members 40 years ago, the club now includes about 900 members, according to the group. That decline prompted a new focus in the early 2000s on attracting younger members.

Today, the lodge features an "Antler room" for children, an outdoor pool and patio, Jacuzzis, racquetball/handball courts, a fitness center, restaurant, a billiards room, and library and card room.

"Our new lodge is designed for families who want to participate in recreation, cultural and philanthropic activities," Chet Hayes, chairman of the Elks' board of trustees and also chair of the construction committee, said in a statement.

In order to finance the project, the Elks sold about 5 acres of land to the rear of the new lodge, which itself sits on 2.8 acres. The project cost "between $10 million and $20 million," according to Hayes. It was designed by Hoover Associates: Architecture-Planning-Interiors and built by Vance Brown Builders, both of Palo Alto.

Despite the new construction, the Elks members were able to bring along some of their old lodge's fixtures, notably a 1942 mural of local attractions and former Elks members that had been glued to a wall. Getting it off the wall proved a challenge and damaged the art in the process, said Lorrain Brookman, an Elks officer. But the group enlisted the help of a local artist and a Menlo Park framing shop, and the mural, now a diptych, hangs on the lodge's second floor.

As members discussed the new facility with visitors Saturday, several already had favorite aspects.

Don Brookman, the Elks' treasurer and Lorrain's husband, praised the Palo Alto room, a second-floor ballroom with hardwood floors and floor-to-ceiling windows along two sides.

"Because of the view and the lighting, it's our favorite," said Brookman, who enjoys dancing.

Members Bette and Fred Michaud said they are looking forward to bringing their eight grandchildren to use the new swimming pool once it opens in the summer.

"It's a great facility for children" because of the long, wide steps, said Fred Michaud, himself a former swim teacher.

Though the lodge is new, the Elks' mission as a philanthropic as well as a social organization remains the same, members said.

The Elks raise money for projects that support children with disabilities, scholarships for youth and the welfare of veterans. The group has participated in the Soap Box Derby and hosts BBQs for patients at the Palo Alto Veterans Affairs Health Care System and events such as a veterans' Christmas party, according to Don Brookman.

"Our big hope is to give back to the community. That's what it's all about," Brookman said.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Peter
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 12, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Is the facility open to the public? Can we dine in the restaurant?

Like this comment
Posted by Jocelyn Dong
editor of the Palo Alto Weekly
on Mar 13, 2011 at 12:15 pm

Jocelyn Dong is a registered user.

@Peter, the facility is open to Elks members, but they can bring guests.

Like this comment
Posted by Long Memory
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 13, 2011 at 2:33 pm

This the same Elks Lodge Association that used to bar Blacks and Jews from membership until the civil rights act passed and it was forced to do so. I remember when my friends father was the first Jew allowed into the Palo Alto Chapter in the mid-sixties. A 'token" member.
It blows my mind that people would want to be associated with an organization that once institutionalized racism and bigotry.

2 people like this
Posted by Toady
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 13, 2011 at 3:28 pm

"It blows my mind that people would want to be associated with an organization that once institutionalized racism and bigotry."

You mean, like baseball and college basketball?

Jeez. This is 2011, not 1950.

2 people like this
Posted by Longer Memory
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 13, 2011 at 9:06 pm

""It blows my mind that people would want to be associated with an organization that once institutionalized racism and bigotry."

You mean, like baseball and college basketball?"

Or even the United States of America. Go back far enough, and there are skeletons in everyone's closet.

Like this comment
Posted by Mountain View Mom
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 14, 2011 at 10:49 am

I'm an Elks member and can tell you that an important part of membership is community service. We spend hours at the Veteran's hospital, fund physical therapists for geographically isolated children with handicaps, organize special events for people with mental and physical disabilities, fund college scholarships and more. As a female member, another group previously excluded from membership, I can tell you that the Elks have grown as an organization, much like Americans in general.

Like this comment
Posted by Eva
a resident of Ventura
on Mar 14, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I agree with Mom from Mt. View. My husband is also an Elk member and it is very community oriented. As a matter of fact the current president is a woman. So yes, the history may have been limited to white men, but that fact is very changed now.

The Elks are very committed to growing their membership, so if you know an Elk contact them about joining! It's very family oriented.

Like this comment
Posted by John
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 14, 2011 at 12:56 pm

When I got drafted in 1944 the Elks provided everyone on the draft detail with a toilet kit to take to the induction center and on into the Army.

The writer of this story did not explain why did they used to glue members to the wall.

Like this comment
Posted by Got Elks?
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Mar 14, 2011 at 3:06 pm

It shouldn't blow your mind, I am a Muslim, non white, and I am a member and "worst" of all for you, people that I find bigots and segregates are those who hide behind computer screens to unleash their loneliness issues.

Dear Elks Members, Thank you! Thank you ! Thank you!

I could not have met better people than you. My children are so happy when they visit and cannot wait for the pool to open. We already purchased the swimming gears.

Like this comment
Posted by Palo Alto Agnostic
a resident of Palo Alto Hills
on Mar 14, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Website says: "To join the Elks you must be a U.S. citizen who is at least 21 years of age with a belief in God and country."

I guess it doesn't have to be the "Christian God" since GotElks is a member, but would they accept an atheist or Agnostic? I'm a firm believer in my country, but not in a god.

Like this comment
Posted by P.A. Native
a resident of Mountain View
on Mar 15, 2011 at 6:17 pm

There are some nice people at the Elks Lodge and they have a fine organization. That being said, the new lodge looks like a hip new sushi restaurant.

1 person likes this
Posted by Jason Castlebury
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2012 at 1:01 am

Well if your against the days that were the big Grand days of BPOE.
Then I'm sorry you have to read about something your not involved with in those days.
If you think white Elk members were bad to African American's.
Then why did a certain African American Male "Stole" out of a Elk travel bag on a train.
I have forgotten where and what train, but the ticket clerk saw the right time and took
The BPOE Elks ritual hand book for his own.
To learn about the meeting practices and hidden meanings of Elks rituals.
With that they went and did a very dishonest thing and put a copy right on the BPOE
and turned the ritual into the I.B.P.O.E. of the World trade mark.
How would you like it if some one stole your Bank accnt. #.
You wouldn't be to happy with that person or person's.
So , dude their are lodges for African American's

Like this comment
Posted by Jason Castlebury
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 28, 2012 at 1:20 am

Plus if we're that much of a secret society still.
Then Like the Mason's and Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias,
Why do I need to care about what a non-member thinks?
The public and all fraternal lodges should have a good relationship
But I am not going be Governed by outside public influences other than State and Fedral Goverment!
Just like I don't tell the guy who said Palo Alto Elks Lodge is racist.
I don't go and say discriminating things about the way he does things in his private life.
Or tell him he's a horride guy and tell himm what to do , say, feel, or think!!!
And on top of all that . I don't think the IBPOE of world would allow me as a White male into the Elk lodges or Temples. Plus if you don't like Masons and think they rule the world. Then I will have you know the IBPOEW is more Masonic like then we are today in the BPOE USA. If white elks are so bad why practice rituals from the White Devils Hands?

Like this comment
Posted by Jason Castlebury
a resident of Greenmeadow
on May 28, 2012 at 1:34 am

To answer the last question I want to answer:
Yes you have to believe in the Supreme Being
or Grand Ruler of the Universe aka God if you want to call
Him or for Masons Grand Archt. of the Universe or
Deity .
To join any of the worlds or American fraternaties!!!
No non-believers need to apply.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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