Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks
LITCHFIELD Lodge No. 654, Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, was instituted on February 11, 1901, with 43 members. By the time the Lodge sent in its first report, on March 31, it had added two more members and this rate of growth has been continuing ever since. At present the membership numbers more than 600.
At the time the Lodge was instituted at the old Pythian Hall it met on the second and fourth Mondays of each month. On the following May first it moved to a hall on East Kirkham Street across from Library Park which served as home until the present Elks Club was built.
The Charter lists the following officers: Louis E. Heinly, Exalted Ruler; Wilson P. Spruill, Esteemed Leading Knight; E. O. Eichelroth, Esteemed Loyal Knight; David R. Kinder, Esteemed Lecturing Knight; Fred C. Beeman, Secretary; Arthur F. Smith, Treasurer; T. L. Beveridge, Tyler; John F. Coddington, Esquire; George B. Faulk, Inner Guard ; R. C. Shellenbarger, Chaplain ; George W. Amsden, Organist; Hugh Hall, Hugh A. Snell and W. T. Thorp, Trustees. Of the Charter members, all save William Wiegreffe have passed on.
The Litchfield Lodge led a pleasant and agreeable existence for its first twenty-one years. However, its quarters became cramped and the Lodge entertained thoughts of a new home.
Under the leadership of C. C. (Chet) Weber, Secretary and then Exalted Ruler (1921 to 1923), the plans became more than discussion and the property on the southeast corner of Union Avenue and Monroe Street was acquired for the project.
Brother Weber is given full credit for seeing through the construction of the present Lodge home. He conceived the idea of floating approximately $125,000 in bonds and personally handled their sale. The Lodge points with pride to its record of paying off every cent of this indebtedness after a small reorganization of its financing.
The building was started with the late Brother Hugh Snell turning the first dirt in the spring of 1922. It was dedicated on February 5, 6, and 7, 1923, with a gala celebration and open house. A class of forty-five was initiated on the final evening. Three special traction cars brought the out of town guests.
During the next two decades the Lodge met with a series of ups and downs. A basement swimming pool in the building was abandoned a few years later as too costly to operate. The Lodge undertook a series of benefits to maintain its existence, including the famed Elks Minstrels, the highlight of home talent shows of its time.
The struggle was intense, and it was a proud night in April, 1942, when under the leadership of Exalted Ruler Benjamin I. Yaeger the burning of the last bond paid off on the building marked the liquidation of its tremendous debt.
During its fifty-two years, Litchfield Lodge No. 654 has been in the forefront of every movement for the benefit of the community, and its service has been as unswerving as it has been quiet in its presentation, without fanfare, but with deep appreciation of the meaning of charity and selflessness.
Taken from: Litchfield Centennial Book 1853-1953