December 2022 marks the 100th birthday of the Elks Building at 550 Main Street. The Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks (BPOE) was just one of the many fraternal organizations that came to Park City during the early mining days in the 1880s. These organizations provided a much-needed social outlet for the newly arrived, often alone, miners from around the world, as well as health and death benefits since mining was such a dangerous occupation.
The National Elks organization was founded in New York in 1868, the same year that silver was first discovered in this area. After establishing an unofficial branch in Park City, the Elks, along with nine other fraternal orders, established the Glenwood Cemetery in 1885. The order grew in numbers over the years, often with hundreds of Elks and their families participating in parades, parties, and other social and charitable events. The Park City lodge #734 officially became a member of the National Elks in November 1901 and continued to grow in numbers during the height of the mining era.
The Elks did not have a building of their own. Many of the fraternal orders shared meeting rooms, as seen from the Masons and Odd-Fellows lodges that were built on Main Street – some before, and some after the great fire of 1898.
Finally in 1917, the Elks decided they needed a building of their own for their large organization. They purchased vacant land on lower Main Street and began construction on their three-story Elks Lodge in 1921. The next year the building was ready for occupancy, and its first official function was for their Christmas Party, in December 1922, 100 years ago this month.
Whereas all the other fraternal organizations left Park City as mining declined, the Elks have remained active and in the same building to this very day, as many of the Elks were the town’s businessmen. The principles of the Elks are to “promote and practice the four cardinal virtues of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love, and Fidelity; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its members; to quicken the spirit of American Patriotism and cultivate good fellowship.”
The main floor of the Elks Lodge at 550 Main historically was called “Elks Hall”, where large events and sporting games were held on the main floor. Tanner Traders now occupies the ground floor level, but the club continues to operate upstairs.
For their building’s centennial birthday, the Elks are hosting a Christmas celebration in that upstairs space, extending the invitation to the entire town to enter the lodge and celebrate. Festivities – including an open house and a tour of the historic building – take place December 17 form 1-4 p.m. There will be displays from many of the events held at the lodge over the years, and other historical photos adorning the walls. For families, Santa will be there to visit with the children during the open house. Light food and refreshments will be served for all who attend.