SINCE 1911

The City of Aliquippa is in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, the county being formed on March 12, 1800, from parts of Allegheny and Washington Counties and named for the Beaver River. Beaver County is bordered by Washington, Lawrence, Mercer, Beaver and Allegheny counties. A third-class city, Aliquippa, formerly known as Woodlawn, has a current population of 13,374 and is named in honor of Queen Aliquippa, a Native American who lived in the area in the 1700's.

Once you've finished reading the history of the proud Aliquippa Elks Lodge No. 1221, we invite you to use the links attached to learn more about Beaver County and other towns in the county.

This history has been compiled, researched and written by Greg Brown, a member of the Aliquippa Elks Lodge. Please send your comments and any additional information to Greg Brown via E-Mail.

Additional editing and html coding by Ralph Haas.

This history of the Aliquippa Elks Lodge begins when William Howard Taft was president of the 46 United States of America and the Ford Motor Co. had only been producing the "Model T" for two years. Just a year before this Lodge was instituted, the Boy Scouts of America was founded by William Boyce, a native of Plum Boro in Allegheny County; the year was 1911.

On January 27, 1911, the first organizational meeting of Woodlawn Elks Lodge No. 1221 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks was conducted on the third floor of the Woodlawn Trust Building in the city now known as Aliquippa. On Christmas Eve, 1910, Grand Exalted Ruler August Herrmann had signed a dispensation authorizing the meeting.

The Blast furnaces at the Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation mill had begun operation in 1909 and 1910, and a third furnace was slated to fire up in April of 1911; this meant that Woodlawn was a booming municipality, and the time was right for the formation of a local Elks Lodge to help serve the needs of the area.

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks had been established in 1868, arising from a group of 15 New York City entertainers who called themselves the "Jolly Corks," a name derived from a trick in which the loser, more often a "victim," was required to purchase a round of refreshments. The moving spirit for the Elks was an English immigrant comedy singer named Charles Algernon Sidney Vivian, who is credited as the founder of the order and served as the first "right honorable primo." The name he used for the Elks top position, as were many of its traditions, originated in England with a fraternal organization to which Vivian had belonged in England, the Royal and Antediluvian Order of Buffaloes.

But here in Woodlawn that cold winter afternoon, fifteen men were initiated into the new Lodge as Elks initiated 15 new members, allowing the body of 32 charter members to choose Duane P. Smith as their first Exalted Ruler. Ritual Degree work was performed by members of Rochester Lodge No. 283, instituted in 1894 as Beaver County's first Elks lodge, and those of the Beaver Falls Elks Lodge No. 348. The coming months would find Smith and George Stephenson, the Lodge's second Exalted Ruler, being granted Honorary Life Memberships for their efforts in forming and bringing the Woodlawn Elks Lodge to life.

The early years of the Woodlawn Elks Lodge were filled with various forms of entertainment such as dances, corn roasts, boat rides, stag parties and minstrel shows. The members of the Woodlawn Elks Lodge also staged euchre, pool and billiard tournaments, the latter not taking place on Sundays, and they employed a chef to make sure everyone had good food when they visited the Lodge. In fact, music was always important to the Woodlawn Elks, with lodge minutes from the past reflecting the establishment of a male chorus, and the purchase of pianos and sheet music. The sound of the latest Irving Berlin hit, "Alexander's Ragtime Band," was no doubt a favorite, but the piano must have fallen out of favor somewhat when the Lodge Trustees were instructed to buy a new-fangled "Victrola" and 25 records in 1915.

The charitable nature of the Woodlawn Elks Lodge, evident from the start within the local community, extended beyond the area, and an entry in the minutes of April 23, 1912, indicates a $20.00 donation was sent to the survivors of the Titanic, which hit an iceberg and sunk on April 12, 1912, killing more than 1,500 passengers. It was just about one year later that the Lodge members made another donation, this one to the Governors of Ohio and Indiana to be used for the relief funds of flood victims in those states. But the members of 1221 were not without their own problems: Early lodge minutes are scattered with references to typhoid fever, scarlet fever and other ailments.

Their devotion to their country was also strong. The first Flag Day service was conducted in the lodge on June 14, 1912. The following year, "the old soldiers of the vicinity" were invited to Flag Day exercises. (Flag Day did not become a national observance until 1949 when President Harry S. Truman, a life long Elk himself, signed an act of Congress establishing it.)

Sometime in 1916, the lodge established "Elks Park," a permanent picnic ground with a dancing pavilion, on ground it leased. It is believed that the park was located in the hollow off what is now Kennedy Boulevard, behind the car wash.

The next year, Congress would approve President Woodrow Wilson's request that the United States declare war on Germany and plunge the nation into World War I until the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919. Woodlawn would send more than 500 of its sons off to war.

By the time the Roaring Twenties arrived, lodge membership had grown to about 200 and the brothers were seriously looking for a permanent home. A building fund, started with $15,000 in 1913, had more than tripled in less than three years. Two lots were bought on the southern side of Franklin Avenue in July of 1924 for $7,500 each. Financed through the Woodlawn Trust Co., a lodge "temple" was constructed and occupied in 1928. Although the precise location of the building cannot be determined through lodge minutes, it was likely in the 300 or 400 block of Franklin Avenue.

In hindsight, the late 20s were not the best years for the lodge to have made such a significant investment. The U.S. Stock Exchange collapsed on Oct. 28, 1929, and the nation was plunged into the Great Depression. The lodge was devastated. By 1932, trustees were meeting with bank officials to discuss the lodge's inability to keep up payments on its building. The picnic grounds and pavilion had fallen into disrepair, and the trustees had to abandon Elks Park the following year.

In 1936, the lodge was moved to quarters above the Hilo Market. Guy Calabro, a member for the past 58 years, served on the house committee then. "At that time, women weren't even allowed in the barroom," he said.

Long time lodge members also recall meetings conducted above the Temple Theatre while the Elks roamed about in search of a permanent home. But the plans of the lodge would be delayed a second time by a world at war. In addition to sending many of her members overseas, the Elks of Lodge 1221 would support the war effort in many other ways.

A personal note dated February 12, 1945 from the Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force, General Dwight Eisenhower, expressed his gratitude to the lodge for a "generous assorted package" delivered to a military hospital. It was the closing chapter of the war in Europe, though fighting remained fierce in the Pacific. Soon, U.S. troops would retake Manila. and the next month, they would claim Iwo Jima in advance of the costly assault on Okinawa. Hiroshima and Nagasaki will be leveled in August, and Japan will surrender about a month later.

With world peace restored and the nation's economy gaining speed, the Elks at last found their permanent lodge. The current building at 955 Brodhead Road, once a tavern known as "Esley's," was built shortly after World War II, and Pete Grkovich, who had bought it from Ken Hudson, sold it to the Elks in 1952. It would undergo a pair of significant physical additions.

The membership met in September of 1952 "to discuss tentative plans for the new addition." Two months later, builder John E. Marmaduke was given a $28,000 contract to construct what is now the lodge meeting room. The addition was formally dedicated with a several days of festivities running from June 23 through 28, 1953. A grand opening ball was held June 27, with the formal dedication the next day. The Elks had let Aliquippa know that they were here to stay.

The new room got plenty of use, in addition to serving as the meeting room. "Every year, for the anniversary, they had a big name band," Guy Calabro recalled. "You had to get your tickets early." One of the more significant events to be held in the new facility took place in January of 1961, when Grand Exalted Ruler John E. Fenton of Lawrence, Mass., joined the brothers in marking the 50th anniversary of B.P.O.E. No. 1221's fraternal and civic service.

In August of 1992, a committee appointed by Exalted Ruler Calvin Swink held its first meeting to begin discussing whether the lodge should be replaced or renovated. Jack Johnston, Russell Potts and Terry Kocher have chaired the committee. Renovations to create three apartments on the second floor were begun two years later. Shortly thereafter, a concrete floor was poured for the new banquet room. Construction of the building itself began in 1995, and it was ready for use late in 1997. The parking lot was paved in June of 1998, the finishing touch to one of the finest banquet facilities in the Aliquippa area; one that comfortably seats 250 people.

But the members of B.P.O.E. No. 1221 are not content to rest on their laurels. Discussion has been under way for some time that will result in moving the grill room into what is now the meeting room (and former banquet hall), and a complete renovation of the kitchen and establishment of a permanent lodge room (with offices for the secretary and steward) in the current grill room space.

Perhaps you'd like more information about the Aliquippa Elks Lodge and what we do for our town, our county, our state and our nation; if so, please feel free to call us at area code 724-375-4611. You may also want to visit the Pennsylvania Elks State Association Website by clicking now on Pennsylvania Elks Home Page and we hope you'll take a cyber-journey to our Grand Lodge Headquarters by clicking on The B.P.O. Elks Home Page.

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