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A brief history of the Dallas Elks Lodge

Elks Arch of Honor at the corner of Akard and Main in Dallas, July 1908
Elks Arch of Honor at the corner of Akard and Main in Dallas, July 1908
From the Wagner family vintage postcard collection

In August 2013, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Dallas Elks Lodge. Formed in 1888 with 156 charter members, such organizations frequently provided benefits such as life insurance financed through member dues, served as a business and social network for its members, and supported charitable needs in the community.

Early meetings of the Dallas Elks Lodge took place at 813 Main Street, most likely a rented hall. The Elks first home was in South Dallas at the corner of Ervay and Pocahontas streets near City Park. In 1923, the Lodge left South Dallas, as many other organizations did at that time, to take up residence at 1515 Commerce in a new three-story building. The facility sponsored social events for its nearly 2,000 members. By 1938, the Lodge moved to 2012 Commerce, still serving as a "prime entertainment center" (according to the Dallas Elks Lodge), and during World War II, provided assistance to members of the Armed Forces and recruiting efforts. By the 1950s, the Lodge added sports activities and athletics to their offerings.

One of the most memorable bits of Dallas Elks Lodge history occurred in the summer of 1908 when the national convention of the B.P.O.E. was held in Dallas for the first time. For the purpose, the City of Dallas built the Elks Arch of Honor over the intersection of Akard and Main streets in downtown Dallas. The "four-way" arch was constructed of steel, anchored at each corner of the intersection, with the statue of an elk at its peak and mounted clocks on each side. The convention began with a parade which was certain to have travelled through the Arch. Unfortunately in 1910, Allen Brooks, an African American on trial for the assault of a three-year-old white child, was dragged from the courthouse and hung by the arch on March 3. By 1911, the arch was dismantled and stored on the state fairgrounds.

One of the most renowned members of the Dallas Elks Lodge was Judge W.H. Atwell, who served as "Grand Exalted Ruler" of the national Order of Elks from 1925 to 1926. Judge Atwell was commissioned as Chief Judge in 1923, serving on the bench of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas from 1948 to 1954.