One of the unfortunate realities of the 21st Century for Freemasonry is that we are able to find many abandoned lodges throughout the country. As time goes on, the Hedge Mason hopes to present photo-documentation of abandoned lodges throughout the country, or indeed the world. We have spontaneously presented such photos in the past, but it is now a stated intention to do so when they become available to us. We hope you will share our interest in this subject.
Elks Lodge No. 871
2050 Grand Concourse at Burnside Avenue
Bronx, New York 10457
The Elks were founded in 1868 as a social club (then called the "Jolly Corks"). It was established as a private club to elude New York City laws governing the opening hours of public taverns. After the death of a member left his wife and children without income, the club took up additional service roles, rituals and a new name. The fifteen members voted 8-7 in favor of the elk over the buffalo. Early members were mostly from the theatre business in New York City. It has since evolved into a major American fraternal, charitable, and service order with more than a million members, both men and women, throughout the United States and the former territories of the Philippines and the Panama Canal.
When founded, membership in the BPOE was denied to blacks. Because of this policy, an unaffiliated, primarily black organization modeled on the BPOE was formed in 1898. This "Improved Benevolent Protective Order of the Elks of the World" (IBPOEW) remains a separate organization to this day. Membership in the BPOE was opened to African Americans in the 1970s
In the early 1900s, Lodge #871 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the Bronx had a membership of over 450 and was one of the largest and most prosperous branches of the Elks order in the metropolitan area. The group had outgrown their quarters in Masonic Hall, on Washington Avenue, and made plans for a larger clubhouse.
In November, 1908, the lodge purchased a plot measuring 50 by 102 feet on the northeast corner of the Grand Concourse and Burnside Avenue. The new clubhouse had three stories and a sub-story, and there was a roof garden and pergola. Architect James Riely Gordon designed a facade in the Italian Renaissance style, with a base of limestone and light-colored brick and stone timmings above the first story. In the sub-story level were bowling alleys, a rathskeller, and mechanical equipment. On the ground floor were the clubroom, lounging room, billiard room, library, Secretary's room, and a buffet. The lodge room, entered from the second floor level, included a gallery and had a seating capacity of 670. At the rear was the foyer with dining rooms on either side. Built at a cost between $75,000 and $100,000, the new facility opened in 1909. By the 1980s, membership had declined and the building was abandoned. In 1995, Lodge #871 merged with Lodge #756 in New Rochelle, N.Y..
After the Elks' relocated, the building was used by the Citizens Advice Bureau, a local non-profit group. By 1995, the building was abandoned. In 2008, St. Barnabas Hospital announced plans to demolish the old Elks Lodge and erect a 10-story out-patient facility on the site. In February of 2013, the building is still standing.
Readers interested in contributing photos should contact me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Many thanks to Anthony Perez.