The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was formally organized in February of 1868 in New York City. Dedicated to the principals of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity, the Elks prospered. Within twenty years, Elks lodges were found in most major cities of the United States. Many of the early lodge buildings were first class hotels and catered to the needs of the visiting Elk members. In 1888, the Robert Wareing Benevolent Association, a local civic and fraternal organization in Hoboken, petitioned the Elks to become a lodge. Under the guidance of local musicians Charles Greer, a member of the Syracuse Lodge #31, and Rounsville Williams of Providence Lodge #14, the Hoboken Elks were established. In January 1888, Charles P. Gross was elected as the first Exalted Ruler of Hoboken Elks Lodge #74.
In its early stages, the Hoboken Lodge met at Cronheim’s Theater and in the clubrooms of the Quartette Club. As membership grew and the lodge prospered, members dedicated their efforts to the task of finding a suitable location for a lodge building. In the late 1800’s, the cost of property in Hoboken presented a financial challenge. In 1894, the generosity and determination of the early members enabled the lodge to secure property at 1005 Washington Street. The fundraising efforts of member A.J. Demarest garnered over $15,000 for the building fund.
The lodge facility would be unique in its day. It would be a building that was designed for membership activities and lodge affairs. The plans did not include the hotel or lodging facilities that were common in lodge buildings of the era. The design of the facilities and meeting room in particular, were carefully monitored by the Grand Lodge. Hoboken Lodge #74 would become a model for many of the new lodges now being founded in smaller cities across the nation.
On July 31, 1905, Exalter Ruler John J. Fallon presided over the cornerstone installation ceremony that included remarks by Arthur C. Moreland of New York #1 Lodge. Work by local craftsmen progressed at a rapid pace. The new Hoboken Elks Lodge building was completed and dedicated on June 16, 1906. It was regarded as one of the finest lodge buildings in the nation. The new lodge building included a meeting room designed to Grand Lodge specifications, a gymnasium, a game room with card and billiard tables, and a first class restaurant for members and their families. Bowling alleys were added as the lodge expanded their facilities.
Over the years, the Hoboken Elks Lodge has served as a center for the various charitable projects. The lodge became a Red Cross bandage preparation site during World War I. Volunteers and lodge members prepared bandages for our troops on the battlefields of Europe. From the early 1920’s through the 1960’s, the lodge hosted a “Handicapped Children’s” clinic that provided physical therapy and vocational training. The United Cerebral Palsy Chapter of Hudson County currently occupies the space that once housed the clinic. Assorted charitable and civic projects are affiliated with the Hoboken Elks including a Little League team and a Boy Scout troop.
The City of Hoboken, at one time, hosted many fraternal organizations and their buildings. There were Masonic Temples, an Odd Fellows Lodge, a VFW and an American Legion Post. As the demographics of Hoboken changed, membership at fraternal organizations was no longer sufficient to support the buildings. Today, only the Hoboken Elks Lodge remains active and in their original location.
In the plentiful times, as well as in lean times, the Hoboken Elks have been able to maintain their original address. Neither the financial challenges presented by Great Depression of the 1930’s, nor the dwindling membership of the 1960’s would bring an end to Hoboken Elks Lodge #74 at 1005 Washington Street. The Hoboken Elks Lodge building is a symbol of membership’s perseverance and commitment to the Elk principals of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity.