About the Historic Elks Lodge
- E. Walker was the architect for Elks Lodge Number 468 built between 1903 and 1904. Norman Hale was the contractor that worked with John Mulligan on construction. Mulligan’s obituary published in November 1935 noted that, quote, “He was a charter member of Elks and gave to the building of the present Elks Lodge his personal supervision. Laying many of the rocks many of the rocks in the structure with his own hands.”
Mulligan had been involved with the construction of numerous commercial structures in town. Counted among these were the Brunswick Hotel, Beale Hotel, and the territorial jail on the courthouse grounds.
The Elks Lodge in Kingman was established 1899 and meetings were originally held in the Commercial Hotel. Construction of the lodge building was funded by the Elks, the International Order of Odd Fellows, and the Knights of Pythias. It was designed to serve as a multi-use building with the first floor to be used as an opera house and entertainment venue, and was dedicated on May 15, 1904.
As with many commercial structures in Kingman, the stone for the lodge was cut from the Metcalf Quarry north of town. Construction of the lodge was a popular topic of discussion in Kingman. Updates were often published in the Mohave Miner. April 23, 1904, “The doors and windows for the Elks building arrived in Kingman the first of the week and have been put in place. No date has been agreed upon for dedication, but it should be ready for occupancy by the first of May.” May 5, 1904, “The Elks expect to have their new hall ready for dedication about May 15. The building will be a handsome one It is of native stone, two stories high and has he appearance of massiveness and durability.”
Modifications that transformed the building into its current appearance were completed in 1913. An article published in the Mohave Miner on September 14, 1912, detailed some of the improvements being made.
“As soon as the Od Fellows building is completed it is the intention of the local lodge of Elks to begin extensive improvements on their Opera House building. A handsome club room is one of the improvements that will be undertaken and the whole structure will be modernized. The whole upper floor of the building will be used by the lodge, the other secret orders taking quarters in the new Odd Fellows building. The work will be underway in early October.”
Extensive promotion of the remodeled building was given in an article published May 17, 1913. “Kingman lodge of Elks has just completed one of the finest club rooms to be found in the southwest, and at the same time have remodeled the lodge room. The club has just received its furnishings and a trip through the building will convince anyone that no expense has been spared in getting the best that money could buy. Beautiful rugs adorn the floors in all rooms, and the furniture is of the best of upholstered leather goods to match the rooms. A fine piano will furnish the music for all occasions, and there is a fine pool and billiard room to interest those who like that class of amusement.” There was also a well-stocked library.
During its first decades of use before the construction of Lang’s Theater the building served as a primary venue in Kingman. On March 10, 1909, all seats were filled for a performance of Hi Henry’s Minstrels. A promotional article about the event noted, quote, “Hi Henry’s entirely new and unsurpassed minstrels consisting of fifty all white performers will appear in an all new program introducing minstrel stars not yet seen outside eastern cities.’ An advertisement dated January 1913 proclaimed that, quote, “The Musical Farce Company entitled the Only Way will be playing on January 13. Reserved tickets $1.00 at Watkins Drugstore.” On August 25, 1914, the quote, “Funniest Show on Earth came to town. The world’s largest and best colored show. The famous Alabama Minstrels.”
With the opening of a motion picture theater, the opera house faded from prominence as the city’s principal entertainment venue. Still for decades it remained the center of actives for the Elks Lodge. And the old opera house was used for an array of live performances.
Practice for one of those live performances turned out to be historic, but not for a good reason. On March 22, 2008, Bob Boze Bell, artist, author, and editor at True West magazine had returned to his adopted hometown and was practicing with members of his school band the Exits when he suffered a major heart attack. Band members that rushed to his aid, and care at the Kingman Regional Hospital put Bell on the long road to recovery.
The Elks Lodge added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1986 is privately owned. It is rented as an event hall. As an historic footnote the streetlight out front is one of two remaining in Kingman from a 1915 initiative to enhance the business district.