By Jacob Mathias
The downtown Elks Lodge has seen better days.
Members of the Elks Lodge #641 began remodeling the bar last spring when they noticed a sagging in the overhang of the banquet hall bar. The group called in a structural engineer- and the news wasn’t good.
Bob Willis, a trustee for the Elks, said the structural engineer felt the roof trusses of the banquet hall were in imminent danger of collapse, and the banquet hall was immediately condemned.
“The roof’s been there a hundred years and withstood Wisconsin winters forever,” said Willis. “Suffice it to say we wanted to have a discussion on that.”
The lodge would survive without the banquet hall, Willis said, but would be unable to provide many of its usual services to the community and local veterans, which includes about $60,000 annually to facilitate various youth organizations.
The lodge’s Esquire- an office which performs the duties of a ceremonial host- said the lodge isn’t complete without the banquet hall.
“When we talk about being able to survive, yes we would, absolutely.” said Esquire Jim Buck. “But that’s a pretty low bar- if we’re going to function as we have since 1901 when this lodge was chartered, we need that space.”
Due to different opinions on how to fix the building, the city was unable to approve the renovation plan, sending it instead to state building inspectors for a final decision. Those inspectors approved the new plan.
“They had two conflicting results from an engineer and an architect. We had them send it down to the state, for the state to determine the truss work,” said Michael Ostrowski, Stevens Point community development director. “They had an engineer and an architect that maybe didn’t agree on certain standards.”
Stevens Point Building Inspector Jim Zepp said the state often acts as a final arbiter in such instances.
“The state does [site] plan approval for various projects and on that one it was best [left] for them,” Zepp said.
The building’s roof trusses- originally made of latticework- are now rebuilt and reinforced with steel. Next, Zepp said, stub walls need to be built followed by installation of insulation, electric service and a ceiling.
The total cost of the renovation, according to Willis, is between $100,000 and $120,000. The Elks is preparing for a capital fundraising campaign to cover costs the group was unable to fiance itself.
The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) is a national fraternal organization and social club founded shortly after the Civil War. Lodge #641 is located at 1132 Clark St.
To inculcate the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity; to recognize a belief in God; to promote the welfare and enhance the happiness of its Members; to quicken the spirit of American patriotism; to cultivate good fellowship; to perpetuate itself as a fraternal organization, and to provide for its government, the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks of the United States of America will serve the people and communities through benevolent programs, demonstrating that Elks Care and Elks Share.