Elks Club

This undated postcard shows the Smith house in use as the organization's original clubhouse. Image source: Holyoke History Room

Founding and Expansion

The Holyoke Lodge of Elks was founded in 1904, when 35 men, led by City Clerk John Sheehan, were granted a local charter from the national organization.

Meetings were held at Wakelin Hall, but by 1908 demand grew for a formal social space. The lodge reorganized itself as a Massachusetts corporation and purchased the Smith house on Maple Street. Elks member and local architect H.H. Alderman submitted plans for a new addition, and on March 26, 1913, the new social club was dedicated as an extension to the back of the Smith house. The building would later be demolished for a purpose-built clubhouse on the same site, which still stands today.

Although located in Holyoke, the club's membership was composed of people from surrounding towns and beyond. By 1922, a full 135 of its 350 members were actually residents of Westfield. In addition to Holyoke and Westfield, members hailed from towns as near as Amherst and South Hadley, and as far as Newark and New York. Thanks to heavy investment in government-backed Liberty Bonds during the First World War, the lodge was able to pay off its $19,000 mortgage that same year, just nine years after the dedication of the property.

This 1915 map close up of the corner of Essex and Maple Streets shows the location of the Smith house (center) with its 1913 extension in the rear. The house itself would later be torn down for a new club, which still stands today. Image source: Library of Congress

Later Days

The Elk’s 50th Anniversary was marked by a four-day celebration that culminated in a large parade down Maple and High streets in 1954.

It had all the workings of the future St. Patrick’s Day parades: several drum bands, local high school bands, groups led by the mayor and chief of police, and community groups like the local little league baseball team. The parade concluded with the induction of nearly 100 new Elks in the War Memorial building. Membership was booming.

By 1976, the need for a new building was becoming more and more evident. Plans for the current location off of Homestead Avenue were submitted in the spring of that year and subsequently approved by the lodge.

This postcard postmarked in 1937 shows the c.1930 social club, which was built on the site of the original Smith house. Image source: Holyoke History Room