The Spokane Elks Club was established in 1892 with 45 charter members. In the heady days of Spokane’s boom era, the local club grew to be one of the larger chapters of the fraternal, charitable organizations in the United States.
So in 1900, the cornerstone was laid for a club building at the corner of Post Street and Trent Avenue, now Spokane Falls Boulevard there. It opened in 1901. The building had Roman columns flanking a grand staircase at the entrance.
The modest group of charter members turned into thousands as Spokane men rushed to join the men-only club. Members were spilling out of the doorways and the bar was always elbow to elbow, so chapter leaders began planning for a bigger building.
The club sold its building in 1913 and moved temporarily to the Wharton Block on First Avenue. The new owners of the building took off the columned entrance and marketed the building for office space.
But around 1919, W.P. Fuller & Co., which sold paint and glass, took over the building, where the store became a downtown mainstay for 40 years.
Meanwhile, the Elks planned a new home at 1116 W. Riverside Ave. Kirtland Cutter and Edward Baume designed a new two-story Elks temple in the Italian Renaissance style. It was completed in 1920 and the Elks Club, with its membership approaching 8,000, moved into elegant new digs. For a time, the Spokane chapter was the second-largest on the West Coast, second only to the club in Los Angeles.
But after the heady heights of the 1920s and 1930s, membership declined steadily in the postwar era. The Elks sold the newer building to North Coast Life Insurance in 1981. The new owners rehabilitated the building, earning an award for outstanding merit in 1983.
The old building, which had become known as the Fuller Building, was torn down in 1963 and became a parking lot. The River Park Square parking garage was built there in 1974.
Today, the Spokane Elks Club is based in Spokane Valley in a much more modest building, where members continue the values of the organization that is nearing its 150th anniversary: charity, community service, patriotism and fraternal loyalty. Since the 1990s, women have joined the Elks.
– Jesse Tinsley
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