Location: 607-613 Capitol Way S
Local, State, and National registers; Olympia Downtown National Historic District; Wohleb
Gathering of Elks at Elks Building, 1933, Vibert Jeffers Photograph, Susan Parish Collection, Southwest Regional Archives
Elks Building today (2013), photo by Deb Ross
Elks Lodge number 186 was founded in Olympia in 1891, on the heels of Washington statehood. Members included prominent businessmen and state officials. Originally meeting in the McKenny Building, the current building was erected in 1919 with a design by Olympia’s preeminent architect Joseph Wohleb. Wohleb was at the height of his career and influence at this time. This imposing four-story building attests to the influence and importance of social clubs in the early decades of the 20th Century. A large panel at the roofline reminds us of the building’s original use, reading “BPO Elks 186.” The lodge moved to a new building on Fourth Avenue in the 1970s, and then to its current location near Ralph’s Thriftway.
Because of its significance to the history of Olympia as well as its connection with Joseph Wohleb, the building was accepted for listing on the National Register. It is also on the local and state registers and located in the Olympia Downtown National Historic District. It appears to have sustained little damage in the 1949 earthquake.
According to historian Bernice Sapp (see Olympia 100 years ago, appendix to Newell, So Fair a Dwelling Place), the Elks Building is located on the site of Isaac Ellis’s home. See the Residents section of this website for more information about Isaac Ellis.
Olympia Downtown National Historic District
Isaac Ellis home featured in 1874 Sylvester’s Window
Washington State Historical Society photographs: Enter the catalog number in the Collections Search Box: C19188.8.131.52 (view looking north on Capitol Way; 1998.81.2 (aftermath of 1949 earthquake)
Copyright © 2022 Deborah Ross