Saturday, July 17, 2010

The Elks Lodge

Recent mention on of a "mystery fire" behind 601 Union Street, still commonly referred to as the Elks Club even though it has changed hands two or three times since the Elks owned it, made me to think of the buildings the Elks have occupied over the years.

The first Elks Lodge that I'm aware of was this building which stood on the site of what is now Thurston Park in the 200 block of Warren Street. If I remember correctly what I've been told about the fate of this building, it was severely damaged by fire and subsequently demolished.

The Elks' next building was 601 Union Street, the former Terry-Gillette Mansion. It was built in the 1850s from a design by Richard Upjohn that appears in A. J. Downing's book The Architecture of Country Houses (1850). Downing called the design "one of the most successful specimens of the Italian style in the United States." If I'm not mistaken, until the Elks acquired it, probably sometime in the 1930s, and significantly expanded it over the years, this archetypal Italian villa had been a private home.

Ten or so years ago, after the Masons sold their historic building on Third and Union streets, the Elks decided to sell 601 Union Street and build themselves something new. They acquired land on Harry Howard Avenue, at the north edge of the Firemen's Home property, and, in 2002 or 2003, proposed to erect there a metal building that would be their lodge. The plan was beset with problems. Hudson code does not permit metal buildings to be constructed in the city, but some modifications to the proposed design suggested by Kevin Walker, who was then a member of the Planning Commission, made the building more visually acceptable, and the Planning Commission ultimately approved it. As A. J. Davis had done at the Plumb-Bronson House more than a century and a half before, Walker expanded the eaves and added ornamental brackets--but with considerably less success. (I think the cupolas may also have been Walker's suggestion.) The building was supposed to resemble the train station, and in the drawings presented to the Planning Commission, it did; in reality, not so much. Walker emerged with a reputation for being a problem solver and soon went to work for T. Eric Galloway.

Getting site plan approval from the Planning Commission wasn't the only hurdle for the new Elks Lodge. Neighbors along Harry Howard Avenue objected to the increased traffic and noise they believed would be generated by the Elks Lodge. They also considered it inappropriate to site a building where alcohol would be consumed in such close proximity to a school. They initiated a lawsuit and got the court to issue an injunction to halt construction. The prefabricated parts of the building, which had already been purchased, were delivered to the site and remained lying on the ground for about a year before the legal issues were sorted out and the building was allowed to be assembled.

1 comment:

  1. Since the Hudson High School building has expanded, isn't it even closer to the Elks Club than it was before? --Ellen