Part 1: Construction and Dedication of the New Temple
A line drawing of architect Carl L. Linde’s proposal for the new Elks’ Temple, as published in Up-To-The-Times, April 1912. Note the drawing depicts a building of just four stories.
In his 1918 History of Old Walla Walla County, Vol. 1, Whitman Prof. W. D. Lyman wrote, “Perhaps most rapid in growth of all the [fraternal] orders in Walla Walla has been the Elks. The Walla Walla lodge of Elks No. 287 was organized August 10, 1894, with fifteen members. After a slow growth of a number of years the fraternity took on a swift development and at the date of this publication the membership exceeds six hundred. The lodge possesses one of the most beautiful buildings in the city, dedicated with a series of appropriate ceremonies and entertainments on May 23, 24 and 25, 1913.”
In the years leading up to the decision to erect a new temple, the Elks continued to meet in the I.O.O.F. Hall at 225½ West Main Street just east of the old court house. There is an existing photograph of Elks members seated on the multiplicity of steps leading up to the court house, perhaps the only place that provided sufficient light and space for such a large group photo. It was becoming apparent that the Elks needed a building of their own; however, nearly four years transpired from their initial resolve to construct a new temple until the dedication of the completed grand edifice. The first priority was site selection. The officers of the lodge eventually settled on a parcel at the southwest corner of Fourth and Alder Streets, comprising the south one-half of Lots 9 and 10 of Block 10 of the original City of Walla Walla. This property measured 110 feet on Alder and 60 feet on Fourth. The Sanborn Fire Map of 1905 shows two dwellings, a frame structure offering board and lodgings and a small store already on the property. The $14,000 purchase from Katie Butz, a widow who owned the land, was filed January 24, 1910.
The pending transaction had already been scooped and reported on January 20th in the Morning Union, under the headline Elks Buy Corner, that the Elks planned to erect a temple of approximately $100,000. In journalistic hyperbole, it went on to declare that the new temple would be five or six stories, that the first three stories were already rented, and the upper two floors would be for the Elks’ use. Seven months earlier, on May 5, 1909, the Morning Union had reported the following: Five Story Elks Temple Assured: Local Lodge Decides To Erect Large Structure This Summer: $50,000 Subscribed In Stock Last Night – Committee to Report Next Meeting. Continuing, the article stated that final action was pending regarding site selection and the new building would be well underway by September.
If neither of these news accounts proved to be 100 percent accurate, a course had been set by the Elks that in 1913 would result in one of the handsomest Elks’ Temples in the Pacific Northwest. And if the Morning Union was guilty in January 1910 of a bit of hyperbole in its reporting, Up-To-The-Times was not quite up to the times in its story in the February 1912 issue that announced, “The Elks Lodge of Walla Walla is planning the erection of a new building and club house. A site at the corner of Fourth and Alder streets is one of the most popular ones spoken of for the location of the new building.”
Once the site had been established, retaining an architect for the building would have been the next priority. Something comparable to what currently is referred to as a Request for Proposal was most likely published in area newspapers and architectural journals, specifying required needs of the Elks, whether to construct a four- or five-story building to best meet their requirements, and the amount of funds available to expend on the structure. The Walla Walla Union on February 1, 1912 wrote under the title Elks Receive Building Plan: Portland Architects Submit Drawings to Committee on Proposed New Temple, “Yesterday was the last day of time allotted by the Elks’ lodge building committee for the presentation of… plans… but by request the time has been extended three days… The last day brought architect McLaren and a representation from the firm of Linde & Ulrich from Portland with new plans…The committee is busy considering these various plans but have not arrived at no [sic] decision whatever…” On February 6th, the Walla Walla Union reported in an article titled One Of Three Plans Will Be Chosen Tonight: Elks’ Building Committee To Announce Decision on New Structure – Assured Building of 4 or 5 Stories, that “the final decision has been narrowed down to three sets of plans.” The article continued that the committee needed to reach a decision as to whether the building would be 100 percent for use of the Elks or if it would be a combination of stores and offices with space for the Elks. “One floor will be devoted to a sort of club, recreation room and sleeping rooms for lodge members only, having shower baths, billiard and card rooms, reception parlors and other features… [they] are in favor of going the limit rather than regret a smaller structure later.”
The following day the Walla Walla Union, in an article with the wordy title, Elks To Build A Modern Four Story Building: Make Final Choice of Plans at Meeting of Lodge Last Night: Building Will Cost Approximately $75,000: Roof Garden Still Undecided – First Floor to be Rented for Stores – Second for Dormitory, Third for Club, Fourth for Lodge Rooms noted that, “The building committee… had the plans narrowed down to those of three architects before the meeting, and… the plans thought to be best… were those submitted by Linde & Ulrich of Portland.” It went on to note that the second floor would contain ten to fifteen suites of rooms for bachelor members; third floor, club rooms for both ladies and gentlemen; and fourth floor, lodge and banquet quarters. The roof garden was still an undecided option, “but so many members favor having a private retreat next to the stars where they may commune with nature or each other in the cool summer breezes, that this feature is practically assured, also.” Finally, it noted that with a budget limited to $75,000 the building could only be partially fireproof.
(It is not known whether Henry Osterman, the most prolific architect in Walla Walla at the time and a member of Lodge 287, submitted a proposal for the new Elks’ Temple. His name was prominent on one of the tiles that comprised the facing of the fireplace at the entrance to the Club Room.)
Up-To-The-Times reported extensively on local Elks activities in its March 1912 issue, as follows: “Walla Walla Elks have already chartered a special train to take them to the Elks’ National Convention which is to be held in Portland in July. The local members of the lodge will wear novel suits, made of sack jute from the penitentiary, which will be dyed purple. White hats will complete the regalia. Eight Pullman coaches have already been reserved and it is believed even more will be taken before the convention time arrives.” One can easily conclude that the local Elks were hyped to promote their anticipated grand new building at the national convention.
More specific to the building itself, the article went on to report, “A $75,000 club house will be built this summer by the Elks of Walla Walla. The plans adopted call for a four-story structure of red brick, faced with cream colored brick, the first floor for store purposes, the second for dormitory rooms, the third for club rooms and the fourth for lodge rooms. A roof garden is also proposed.”
The Elks building committee selected the proposal from Linde & Ulrich of Portland. In its April 1912 issue, Up-To-The-Times featured a three-quarter view line drawing of the proposed building, signed by Carl L. Linde, that depicts a four-story temple. The structure as completed was five stories; thus Linde’s line drawing probably was part of his initial proposal that called for a four- or five-story structure. The Pacific Coast Architect magazine in April 1912 noted, “Architect Carl Linde is preparing plans for a five-story pressed brick Elks’ temple to be erected in Walla Walla, Wash., at a cost of $100,000.” This suggests that the decision to build a five-story building at an additional cost of around $25,000 was made most likely in March.
Despite the fact that it appears a decision tentatively had been reached six months earlier to construct a five-story building, on August 1, 1912 Building Permit 1341 was issued to the B.P.O.E. for a four-story brick building at Fourth and Alder, estimated to cost $55,000. J. A. McLean, a noted local builder whose imposing residence is extant at 1049 Alvarado Terrace, was the designated contractor.
By November 1912, Up-To-The-Times was able to report, “The Elks’ new temple, Walla Walla, is rapidly nearing completion. The building, when completed, will cost $105,000. It will be ready for occupancy on first of February, 1913.” The following month the magazine wrote, “Two elevators will be installed in the new Elks’ temple, Fourth and Alder streets.” In January 1913 it noted, “The Elks’ new temple, Walla Walla, one of the finest buildings of its kind in the state of Washington, is to be opened with appropriate ceremonies some time next month.”
Continuing its monthly coverage, Up-To-The-Times reported more extensively in February 1913, “The building committee of the new Elks’ Temple, Walla Walla, has completed arrangements for the installation of a huge bronze elk, one and one-half times life size, which will be placed upon a 30-foot pedestal on top of the temple. [The pedestal was directly above the two elevators; thus, its primary function was to provide housing for the elevator machinery, with secondary function as a mount for the bronze elk.] It will be brilliantly illuminated at night with small incandescents.” However, as construction fell behind schedule, the magazine limited its coverage to a line or two in March and April, noting in May 1913, “The Walla Walla Elks have postponed the dedication of their new temple from May 6, 7 and 8 to May 22, 23 and 24.”
Finally, on May 24, 1913, the Walla Walla Union was able to report in rapturous prose that the new Elks’ Temple, the final cost for which had reached $125,000, was “five stories with a wooden pergola around the roof’s edges for clinging vines and potted plants, to enclose the city’s first roof garden… On the topmost point of the building commanding the city, in alert position, stands a massive bronze statue, clearly in relief on the horizon by day, electric lighted by night; ever a friendly beacon testifying that a heaven lies beneath… The first floor contains seven small sized [commercial retail] store rooms, neatly finished inside, with storage room in the rear… two elevators are immediately to the right of the entrance. These elevators are something new and unique in Walla Walla in that they are self started and stopped and no attendant boy is needed. They are operated entirely by push buttons inside and out.” The newspaper’s account goes on to describe the second floor as having 16 furnished rooms, all but two with private baths, with a common bath for the other rooms, and all heated by a steam plant in the basement. The building was piped for an automatic vacuum cleaning plant, although this was not yet operational at the grand opening. The third floor contained the Club Room with a spacious lobby at the head of the stairs “with massive columns” and a ceiling of “large Colonial beams and calcimated plaster.” The front section of the Club Room was a Reading Room with a “historic fireplace made of 300 purple-gray enamel bricks, upon each of which is carved the name of a lodge member. [The account of the fireplace tiles did not mention that each man whose name appeared on a tile had made a donation to the construction of the building. These tiles were salvaged when the building was razed in 1973 and are mounted on walls of the entrance hall to the current lodge at 351 East Rose Street.] At the rear was the Billiards Room with one pool and two billiard tables. Windows were hung with purple draperies. The fourth floor contained the Lodge Room, 70 by 43 feet and two stories in height with an ornamental plaster ceiling and purple draperies. This level also contained a ladies parlor finished in mahogany and Spanish leather. That portion of the fifth floor not taken up by the two-story lodge room contained a Banquet Room, a kitchen separated from the Banquet Room to preclude “any offensive odors,” and a dumb waiter for sending up supplies. Finally, the roof garden was described as being 60 by 110 feet, with “wooden flooring… and the pergola surrounding is already being fitted up with plants and vines… An orchestra box will be arranged… A fine view of the valley can be obtained from this vantage point.” The purple prose contained in this news account was befitting the occasion, the official Elks colors being purple and white. Indeed, for the grand opening of the new lodge, Pacific Power & Light changed the cluster of street light globes around the building to purple.
The Walla Walla Union reported on May 25, 1913 that 1,000 visiting Elks arrived in Walla Walla for the three-day dedication ceremony, representing different lodges from Portland, Maine to Berkeley, California.
The following month, Up-To-The-Times in June reflected on the grand opening as follows, “The finest lodge home in the entire Northwest was dedicated last month when the Local Lodge No. 287 of the B.P.O.E. of Walla Walla formally opened the doors of its magnificent new four-story [sic] building. The services extended over three days, May 22, 23 and 24, and were attended by hundreds of Elks from all parts of the Northwest, many coming in special cars chartered for the occasion. The formal dedication occurred on Friday, and public receptions, lodge work and parades were included in the list of events…”
The completed Elks’ Temple was indeed a striking building. Its design projected a restrained Beaux Arts appearance. Facing of the building was of cream colored brick; quoins at the corners of the building were of the same material, perhaps a cost-saving concession to more expensive sandstone or imported Indiana limestone. The entrance to the Elks’ portion of the building was at the far right of the east façade, classic in form, but certainly not imposing, its main feature being two rather squat Doric columns supporting an entablature that tended to impart a rather Lilliputian look to the entrance of this otherwise imposing building. The balance of the ground level spaces facing both Fourth and Alder were reserved for commercial tenants. A string course stretched the length of both street façades above the first floor. The main cornice, were it not for its size and location above the fourth floor rather than the fifth or top floor, would be described as a cavetto cornice. It was a heavy, albeit simple, cornice save for the four pediments at the corners of the two street façades with ornate supporting brackets. The façade of the fifth floor that extended above this cornice was simpler than the lower floors, lacking windows on both street façades. At roof level were numerous substantial poles supporting the pergola – that actually was more of a trellis than a pergola. Wrought iron balconies, from appearances probably ornamental, embellished six window groupings on the third and fourth floors.