Thursday, May 23, 2013
Covering Dallas, Monmouth, Independence, Falls City and surrounding areas since 1868
A fire on March 24, 1979, gutted the Independence Elks Lodge, which later incorporated the adjacent Isis Theater into part of the group's headquarters on Main St.
July 02, 2012
INDEPENDENCE -- One of downtown's largest properties could change hands this year.
Members of the Elks Lodge No. 1950 began marketing their longtime headquarters at 289 S. Main St. for sale last month.
The one-story, roughly 15,600-square-foot facility consists of a large meeting room and bar at street level and a dining room and kitchen downstairs.
The price tag on the property is $1.4 million.
A dwindling and aging membership is a key factor in Elks leaders deciding to sell the building, said Elaine Stuart, a member and spokeswoman.
The organization itself, founded in 1955, is not disbanding.
"We probably need something smaller, with one floor," Stuart said, adding that there's a contingent of members opposed to a sale.
"I'm not happy about it, either ... I love the old building, but there comes a point where you have to make a change," Stuart said.
Dan Lowe, an Elks past exalted ruler, added: "We may not sell if we don't get the right buyer and right price."
At its high point, the organization boasted almost 1,200 members while the building itself was one of the largest Elks lodges in the state, Stuart said, adding that membership numbers are closer to 600 today.
The Elks attempted to sell the property on its own a few months ago before going through commercial brokerage firm Sperry Van Ness, said Shawn Irvine, Independence's economic development director.
The city's been trying to help find a buyer, Irvine said.
"There are interesting potential uses for it," he said. "We would like to see something like a hotel go in there, though I'm not sure it could be converted."
A concern is the property possibly being sold and ending up unused or underutilized, he said.
"We hope somebody entrepreneurial takes an interest in it," he said.
Independence Elks Lodge No. 1950 was chartered in March of 1955. It wasn't long after that the organization decided to purchase the Main Street property, which previously housed a grocery store and a J.C. Penney, said Ed Pomeroy, a member from Monmouth.
"Where our meeting room is now, it had (at the time) a cashier's balcony and the chute you put deposits in," Pomeroy said.
The lodge was gutted by a three-alarm fire that broke out in a corner of the main dining room the morning of March 24, 1979. An official cause wasn't determined, though Pomeroy said an assumption was it was sparked by still-burningcigarettes left overnight in the trash.
Insurance money and loans were used to rebuild the property in 1980, while the Elks also incorporated the old Isis Theater next door into part of their headquarters, Pomeroy said.
Stuart said the organization hasn't discussed in earnest where it might relocate if the building is sold, though there will be a stipulation that the Elks will receive lead time to find a new home before a new owner takes over.
"To put it mildly, I would hate to see them sell it," said Everett Case, a member since 1959.
"But I realize it's a necessity. It's too big a building and too big an expense to keep up for the number of members we have," he said.