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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Local Elks Club moving to new home

Despite a bout of vandalism to their lodge Sunday, the Spokane Valley Elks are thriving, adapting and moving to a new home.

The Spokane Valley Elks Lodge, 2605 N. Robie Road, will be demolished to make way for a proposed 298-unit multifamily residential apartment complex, according to permits filed with the city on Jan. 11. The proposed project – to be called Homestead on Pines – will feature several three-story apartment buildings with a clubhouse, parking and amenities on more than 12 acres, according to site plans.

That ends the 43-year tenure of the current lodge, which became an epicenter for the club in both Spokane and Spokane Valley after the historic downtown branch closed in 2000. And it comes just after the site was ransacked by vandals, who broke five large windows on the building’s upper level, destroyed antique furniture and caused more than $60,000 in damage.

However, the Elks Club – which now boasts more than 366 local members – isn’t relocating because of the damage or the proposed development. They’ve simply outgrown their current building, said Lynn Hurd, secretary for the Elks. Indeed, at a moment when most fraternal organizations are experiencing protracted decline, the local Elks are growing.

Elks Lecturing Knight Timon Behan said the organization’s success has grown out of its commitment to the community.

The Elks have contributed more than $10 million to veterans and local charities. The club is the largest provider of student scholarships in the country, said Behan.

In early years, fraternal organizations didn’t share the amount of their charitable donations because there were so many members. But now, by sharing that information, it’s boosting membership and activities.

“Fraternal organizations have taken a dip in the last couple of decades, but (their numbers) are going back up again,” he said. “We’re seeing it come back. I think it’s based around loyalty, justice and charity. It’s a fun group of people that are very supportive.”

The history of the local Elks is tied closely to that of the region. The organization first gained a toehold in the late 1800s with 45 charter members, including revered saloon owner and hotelier Dutch Jake Goetz. The organization will celebrate its 125th anniversary this year.

Among the club’s prize possessions is a historic 6-foot-wide gambling wheel, called Wheel of Fortune, which Goetz donated to the organization shortly after World War I. Goetz is said to have commissioned inmates at Sing Sing Prison in New York to build the wheel for his bar at a cost of $5,000.

Happily, the wheel was loaned to the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum a week prior to the vandalism incident and thus preserved from damage.

The wheel contains 11 native species of North American wood and features elaborate inlay and artwork. Originally on display in the historic downtown lodge, it was moved to the Spokane Valley Elks Lodge during the late 1990s.

Members approved the land sale, which is expected to close in a couple of weeks, in September, Hurd said.

“We have about two weeks to move out of here,” Hurd said. “We have a lot of stuff boxed, packed and ready to vacate.”

Todd Whipple, president of Whipple Consulting Engineers Inc., will serve as the project’s engineer. Although Whipple confirmed the project, he declined to provide further information about the land sale and developer, because the project is in a “very early stage.”

It’s undecided whether the Elks will purchase vacant land and construct a new lodge or buy an existing building. But they likely will stay in the Valley because that’s where most of their members reside, said Hurd.

Hurd said they would like to find a property with a parking lot large enough to continue community events, such as car shows and Easter egg hunts. The organization also would like to continue providing an RV park for its visiting members, but that is dependent on the future property’s zoning and size.

In the interim, the Elks are planning a move to a temporary office and have set up a GoFundMe account to raise $5,000 to cover the insurance deductible from the vandalism, Hurd said.

“We are definitely seeking a new home and not quitting, that’s for sure,” said Behan. “(The vandalism incident) has given the Elks a lot of energy to kick in and get this going. Sometimes, when something bad happens, good things can come out of it.”