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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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Elks Club.
Elks Club (2016) along Military Road

The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks is an American fraternal order and social club founded in 1868. The Elks, then called the "Jolly Corks," was established as a private club to escape New York City laws governing the opening hours of public taverns. (1)

Early members were mostly from theatrical performing troupes in New York City. The organization has become a major American fraternal, charitable, and service order with more than a million members, both men and women, throughout the United States. (2)

After the death of a member left his wife and children without income, the club took up additional service roles, rituals, and a new name. Desiring to adopt "a readily identifiable creature of stature, indigenous to America", fifteen members voted 8-7 to favor the elk above the buffalo. (3)

Membership was opened to AFRICAN AMERICANS in the 1970s and women in the mid-1990s. Current members are required to be U.S. citizens over the age of 21 and believe in God. (4)

The national headquarters, known as the Grand Lodge, is located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood of Chicago. Local Elks Lodges, known as subordinate lodges, are located in about 2,100 cities and towns across the United States and its territories. (5)

The local Elks lodges are known by their lodge number and the name of the city in which they are located. The first Lodge, located in New York City, is Lodge 1, while the Lodge in Dubuque, Iowa is Lodge 297. When a Lodge is closed, its number is retired. If re-instituted at a later time, the city name and lodge number can be reinstated by the Grand Lodge.(6)

Established in 1895, the first meetings of the the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks Lodge #297 were held in the Knights of Pythias Hall. The first regular lodge quarters were in the BANK AND INSURANCE BUILDING at 909 Main Street. They were moved to 947 Main Street, and then to the Slattery Home at 749 Locust Street. (7)

Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald
Photo courtesy: Telegraph Herald

In 1914-1915, the Elks built a new lodge at the corner of 7th Street and Locust. Located across the street from the Roshek Building later CYCARE PLAZA, the structure cost $120,000. A brilliantly colored glass dome, donated by Anthony F.HEEB in 1914, rose over the Lodge Room and depicted the planets as they were when Dubuque Lodge 287 was formed. Four stained glass windows represented Charity, Brotherly Love, Justice and Fidelity. The door knobs were gold-plated and each featured an elk head and painted clock registering 11 hours--related to the ritual of the organization. In addition to dances, the arena featured wrestling matches including those of local favorite Ken FENELON. (8)

It was torn down in 1975. In 2008 the site was the location of the DUBUQUE MUSEUM OF ART. (9)

The local group that began with thirty charter members had grown in 1970 to 950. The organization was known locally for its annual Christmas basket program for needy families, sponsorship of a Girl Scout troop, and the donation of playground equipment to the City. (9)


Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
This rare postcard shows the Roshek Building in the center, the H. B. Glover company on the right, and the Elks' Lodge on the left.
Photo courtesy: Bob Reding
Trade Token.


1. "Who's Who in Dubuque: Dubuque Lodge -- B.P.O. Elks," The Town Printer, The Hoermann Press, February, 1948.

2. Ibid.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Ibid.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. Bulkley, E. A., "The Elks Buildings Last Days," Telegraph Herald, June 8, 1975, p. 25

9. "Elks Observe 75th Year of Service Here," Telegraph Herald, July 29, 1970, p. 21 ---