Restoring a Hoquiam landmark

The Hoquiam Elks Lodge has stood for more than 100 years as the home of its chapter. In places, especially from the outside and especially if you don’t look too close, it retains its classic architectural charm. But in other spots, it looks like a run-down building from the ’70s.

That’s no way to treat a building that’s seen so much history, said Monica Ewing, Elks Historical Committee chairwoman.

“It’s a fabulous building,” Ewing said. “Walking upstairs is like walking back in time. … The history of it and the beauty of it is something I didn’t want to see continue to get run down.”

So she spearheaded a petition to get the building on the Hoquiam Register of Historic Places, volunteered to help with the Historical Committee, and with an anonymous donation of $50,000 to work on the building, she and numerous volunteers are setting about restoring the building.

They’re doing it in stages. The first thing was to get some paint on the outside of the building. Now the focus is shifting inside and supporters are hoping to raise another $50,000 for that work. The first major fundraiser is Saturday night at the Elks.

“I think the Elks and the library across the street are kind of the heart of Hoquiam and are really important. It’s important we preserve the building,” Mayor Jack Durney said. He chairs the fundraising committee for the renovation, and has been an Elk since the ’70s.

The history hasn’t always been cheery — Durney mentioned a local banker visiting the lodge during the Great Depression and “some former depositor shot him, shot him right in the lobby,” he said. The lodge has been witness to many ups and downs of history on the Harbor.

Ewing said the goal for the restoration is to stay as close to the original design as possible, an effort which has been enhanced by the work of the Polson Museum providing photos of the original building.

“Really, structurally, there hasn’t been a lot changed in the building. It’s mainly cosmetic. It’s going to be easy in some respects,” she said.

Many have noticed the fresh paint on the outside of the building, courtesy of the anonymous donation. It was partially meant to work on the building’s exterior, but left some leeway for replacing broken appliances and equipment inside the lodge, sparking inspiration for a more extensive project.

“That seed money was definitely the impetus to finally get going on some restoration,” Ewing said.

For now, the committee is focusing on the Palmer Room lounge, and hopes to raise another $50,000 to complete that restoration.

“That’s just kind of our phase one goal. I think we’re going to take it a step at a time rather than overwhelm the committee or the community with some astronomical amount,” Ewing said.

After that, work will move to the Fireside Room and entryway, then on to the main meeting room. Durney said the hope is to have the lounge done this year.

The work needed in all the areas on the first floor has a lot in common: Bringing newer “improvements” back to historical accuracy.

“All the ceilings downstairs have been lowered, which was kind of a standard move in the ’70s and ’80s to conserve energy,” Ewing said. “Everything in the downstairs is pretty much linoleum and ugly carpet. We just want to get that all off of there, raise the ceilings, (and get) at least architecturally correct period fixtures. We want that to look like it used to back in its glory days.”

“One of the things we decided was a smart thing to do is hire a designer to do the work, so we weren’t doing it on cocktail napkins,” Durney said. The group hired Tacoma architect Tom Reiger to draft a design. Some Hoquiamites will recognize his work restoring the old train station now serving as a Department of Licensing office.

“If anyone’s been in that building, they know the caliber of work he does and how detailed it is,” Ewing said.

The lodge’s capital campaign kicks off this Saturday at 5 p.m. with the theme of “revelation and restoration.”

In addition to silent and live auctions, the Washington State Ghost Society will present the results of a night of paranormal investigation conducted on the lodge’s upper floors in August of last year.

The investigators encountered so much activity, Ewing said, they’ve asked to stay another night. An opportunity to accompany them will be auctioned off Saturday. Ewing was there for the initial investigation, and noted the investigators had no preliminary research when they arrived.

“I spent the night with them, and I kind of went in with no preconceived idea of what was going to happen. You’re kind of like, ‘Whatever, are they actually talking to a spirit?’ But they got names and what they were doing in the building, and we’ve actually been able to substantiate some of the data they collected,” she said.

“It’s kind of an odd situation. It’s amazing really,” Durney added.

Saturday will also feature guided tours of the supposedly haunted upper floors, with donations accepted. A “comfort food” dinner of meatloaf and mashed potatoes will be served ($15 for adults, $10 for kids under 12) at 6 p.m. to help gird the bolder guests for their tours.

In the end, Ewing said, the important thing isn’t just restoring the physical building, it’s opening the door to restoring its place as a cornerstone in the community.

“We want it to get back to that. We want it to be so nice, and so historic and so beautiful and pleasant that people will want to come there and have their events and just hang out,” she said.

The Elks Lodge is located at 624 8th St. in Hoquiam. Donations toward renovations can be mailed to that address.