Reno Elks Home (site)

Destroyed by fire in 1957, Elks Club Lodge No. 597 stood on the Reno riverfront for more than 50 years.

Today this site is occupied by the Palladio condominiums, which opened in 2007, but for more than 50 years it was the location of the Reno Elks Home. The Reno Elks Lodge of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (B.P.O.E.) was chartered as Lodge No. 597 on June 30, 1900 and was installed by officers of the Sacramento, Nevada City, and Grass Valley Lodges. The Charter list of the Reno Lodge consisted of 45 men who were said by the local newspaper to be “among the best citizens of the State of Nevada.”

From its chartering in 1900 until the completion of the Reno Elks Home in April of 1904, the Lodge met in the city’s “Investment Hall.” On April 23, 1904, the Lodge dedicated its new home at 50 North Sierra Street, where it resided for 53 years. The new building, designed by architect Fred Schadler, had the appearance of a grand private residence. Through the entry portico and main glass and mahogany doors, a grand central hall opened to large reception rooms on either side. A great stairway led upstairs to the spacious lodge room, and the finishings throughout were in mahogany and weathered oak with velvet carpets.

Originally, a beautiful park-like lawn area filled with mature trees stretched from the building's entrance northward to First Street. In 1937, Sierra Construction Company, owned by Norman Biltz and Dr. Theodore Chase, purchased the park area and had all the towering trees as well as the building's lovely columned portico removed so they could construct a two-story modern mercantile building with a full basement in front of the Elks Home. A new entrance to the Elks was created on Sierra Street. In 1938, the Gray-Reid-Wright department store moved into the neighboring commercial building.

The Reno Lodge was very active during its first 60 years, and the Reno Elks Home was a social center of the community. The Elks performed many acts of charity in and around Reno. Between 1904 and 1957, the Reno Elks Home was flooded twice by the Truckee River and survived a small fire. On February 5, 1957, however, the luck of the building ran out when the Reno Elks Home was destroyed by a disastrous explosion on Sierra Street that set the building and many neighboring structures on fire. J.C. (Cliff) Kumle, Secretary and Manager of the Reno Elks at the time, was credited with averting further tragedy by promptly evacuating 74 members from the lunch and card rooms. As a result, only minor injuries were reported among the Elks, although the building had to be razed soon after.

From March of 1957 until the current lodge at 597 Kumle Lane was completed in 1961, the Reno Elks Lodge met at the historic Mapes Hotel and the old Holiday Hotel Casino (now the Marriott Renaissance), in downtown Reno.

Images

The new Elks Home
The new Elks Home A postcard from 1908 reveals the beautiful Classical architecture of the Elks Home, just four years old at the time. Source: Philip Galbraith Date: 1908
Elks Home ca. 1910
Elks Home ca. 1910 The Riverside Hotel, located across the Truckee River, can be seen to the left In this view of the Elks Home taken from the north around 1910. Source: Neal Cobb Date: ca. 1910
1918 Sanborn map
1918 Sanborn map A Sanborn fire insurance map from 1918 shows the Elks Home (marked "B.P.O.E. Club House") just west of the Rialto Theatre. Brick structures are indicated by the color pink, while wood is depicted in yellow. The Sierra Street Bridge across the Truckee River was not constructed until 1937. Source: U.S. Library of Congress Creator: Sanborn Fire Insurance Company Date: 1918
View from the river
View from the river A postcard depicts the rear of the Elks Home as seen from the south bank of the Truckee River. Note the spacious covered porch on the river side. Source: Dick Dreiling
New side entrance
New side entrance Upon the construction of the commercial building to its north in 1937, the Elks Home gained a new entrance on North Sierra Street. Looking north from the Sierra Street bridge, this photo shows the busy shopping district north of the river. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries
1955 flood
1955 flood People fill sandbags to try to minimize damage from the historic Truckee River flood of 1955. This photo looks south past the Elks home toward the commercial buildings that once lined the south side of First Street. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: 1955
Disaster strikes
Disaster strikes A local headline informs residents of the disastrous explosion and fire that struck downtown Reno on February 5, 1957. Source: Reno Evening Gazette Date: February 5, 1957
Building afire
Building afire The Elks Home is aflame in this photo following the massive gas explosion on February 5, 1957. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: February 5, 1957
Watching the destruction
Watching the destruction Crowds gather to watch the fire caused by the explosion on Sierra Street on February 5, 1957. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: February 5, 1957
A total loss
A total loss The Elks Home had to be torn down following the devastating fire of 1957. To the right of the Elks Home is the Granada Movie Theater. This photo was taken from the south side of the Truckee River. Source: Special Collections, University of Nevada, Reno Libraries Date: February 5, 1957
Former Elks Home site, 2004
Former Elks Home site, 2004 The lot that formerly housed the Elks Home lay vacant for many years prior to the completion of the Palladio Condominiums in 2006. To the rear of the empty lot is the Masonic Lodge, and to the right (on the south bank of the river) is the Riverside Hotel. Creator: Max Chapman Date: 2004
Palladio Condominiums
Palladio Condominiums The building housing the Palladio Condominiums, with ground-floor restaurants, opened on the former site of the Elks Home, the Gray-Reid-Wright department store, and the Granada Theater, in 2006. The Masonic Lodge still stands to its right, and across the Sierra Street bridge to the left is the Riverside Movie Theater, which opened in 1999. Creator: Alicia Barber

Location

50 N. Sierra Street

Metadata

Alicia Barber, “Reno Elks Home (site),” Reno Historical, accessed July 19, 2024, http://renohistorical.org/items/show/163.