Throughout most of the 20th century, Elks Lodges flourished across America. Originally consisting of members from theater and vaudeville backgrounds, the lodges were originally meant to get around New York City laws governing public taverns, but quickly grew into a fraternal order and social club. In its heyday, almost a million members were part of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.
The Elks of New Castle, Pennsylvania built their downtown lodge in 1915 to accommodate their large member group.
But by the 1980s, Elk membership declined and the club could no longer support its opulent lodge. The Elks were forced to abandon it.
Before the building was destroyed in 2011, Abandoned America photographer Matthew Christopher visited the old lodge.
According to an Elk message board, "The new building had a large basement and three full stories, with a large meeting/dancing hall on the top floor, a billiards parlor, social rooms, a two-lane bowling alley, a kitchen and dining area, locker rooms and shower facilities, and reading and writing rooms."
There was a huge oval room for theater in the round.
Given the theater history of the Elks, the theater space was particularly important.
The current Elks members still meet in a much more modest building.
Many of them express regret that the old lodge could not be saved.
But by December of 2011, a demolition crew descended upon East Falls Street where the lodge had stood.
Sad to think that this great ballroom could have lasted a century.
If the lodge had the funds to stay open.
According to Christopher, these chairs are some of the only things saved.
The rest of the lodge was destroyed.
Leaving only a vacant lot behind.
Here is the lodge in the early stages of demolition.
As a wrecking ball collapsed the back of the building.
And took down the old lodge.
Credit: Viral Nova