I like the way buildings are being repurposed in the 21st century instead of being torn down. Ruth and I saw a perfect example of this in Tacoma, WA 3 days ago. The Tacoma Elks Lodge has become a McMenamins hotel and restaurant that’s far from ordinary.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) also known as the Elks Lodge is a fraternal organization that began in 1868 and is still going. It all began when an English actor moved to New York City. Because of existing blue laws, no drinking was legally allowed on Sunday when Charles Vivian and his buddies wanted to get together and party. Half of them wanted to become more civic minded and the other half just wanted to have a good time. The problem solved itself when one of the members who had a wife and children unexpectedly died. The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks was chartered and grew as a result of this occurrence. Lodges formed. The one in Tacoma came along in 1890 and grew to become the largest in the United States with 3,200 members. An elaborate Beaux-Arts building (temple) was completed in 1916 to provide an entertainment venue and meeting place for them. They left it in 1965 and the building became private event space, then a drag queen hangout followed by a theater company. It had become a graffiti covered derelict for 30 years by the time the McMenamins bought it.
This family-owned chain of restaurants, hotels, and brewpubs in the American Northwest with about 60 locations decided to turn this former Elks Lodge into their showplace. Some of the McMenamins hotels are in historic buildings, so the 45 king guest rooms in this downtown Tacoma location are appropriate. However, the entire building is fun to see. It has game bars, places to view Commencement Bay, an indoor atrium, an innovative restaurant, etc. The decorators specialized in zany lights, lamps, and chandeliers, which are everywhere.
The Elks are still going but their headquarters is now in Chicago instead of New York City. The list of its famous members and mere mentioners tends to be a once-upon-a-time proposition that is nostalgic but interesting. The writers on it include William Faulkner and Sinclair Lewis. However, the Elks Temple in Tacoma is very up-to-date and worth dining in and then spending the night.