The space comes with social connections, elegant facilities and support of good works
By Julia Sommer for Ashland.news
Built in 1909 by railroad workers and dedicated in 1910, Ashland Elks Lodge No. 944, 255 E. Main St., has a booming membership of 892.
That number includes younger members and women, who have been admitted to the Elks since 1995. (An exodus of male members quickly followed.)
Current Exalted Ruler of the Ashland Elks Lodge is Kay Englund-Coomler, a fourth-generation Elk and third-generation Ashland resident. She graduated Ashland High School in 1959 and grew up at 36 S. 2nd St., currently occupied by Chateaubriand 36 Steakhouse. She was also the first woman president of Oregon’s 51 Elks Lodges. Her great-grandfather was mayor of Ashland.
To become a member of the Elks, a candidate must be 21, profess a belief in God, and be sponsored by a current member. People join for the social connections, the elegant facilities, and to support good works. Free parking behind the building is also an attraction, as is the lounge, formerly the men’s bar.
The Elks were founded in 1868 in New York City by the Jolly Corks, actors who wanted to drink on Sundays, when bars were barred from opening. The group also wanted to help members in need and established the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE.) Soon there were requests for lodges in other cities, so the BPOE asked the New York state legislature for a charter authorizing a Grand Lodge, with the power to establish local lodges anywhere in the United States. New York Lodge No. 1 was established in 1871.
Ashland Elks meet weekly in the grandiose meeting room on the third floor. Englund-Coomler is assisted by the Knights of Justice, Charity, Brotherly Love, and Fidelity. Exalted Rulers rule for one year, and the Leading Knight then takes over. There’s also a chaplain, an organist, and other officers.
The elk heads mounted on all four sides of the room are hugely imposing. Nearby is the billiard room, with four heated tables intended to reduce humidity.
The second floor houses an expansive dining and living room with panoramic views of the mountains and the popular lounge. The basement is another party space, boasting a floating dance floor. These rooms are available for rental, and rent is also collected from street-level shops Art & Soul Gallery, Posh Organics, and Heart & Hands. The Past Exalted Ruler handles the leases.
Lunch is served Tuesday through Friday, with a buffet dinner on Fridays for members and guests. July 4 is the one day the Elks Lodge is open to the public, serving breakfast. The Kiwanis meet there for their weekly lunch, as do mahjong and domino and cribbage groups.
The Elks Lodge is a nonprofit 501(c)(3). Charities supported by Ashland Elks and its Butler Fund include veterans’ activities, the 365 Club for handicapped youth, a children’s eye clinic, scholarships, and a drug awareness program.
For more information, visit elks944.org or phone 541-482-3911.
Email freelance writer Julia Sommer of Ashland at email@example.com.