In the beginning, Lodge #423 did not have its own home. From the time the Lodge was instituted on March 26, 1898 until February 1907, the lodge meetings were conducted at other early Chico locations. The first meetings were held upstairs of Engine Co. #1 at 177 E. 2nd Street, Chico’s first fire house. Shortly thereafter, the Lodge rented space from another fraternal organization located above Collier Hardware at West First Street and Broadway.
The Lodge’s first step toward acquisition of a permanent home occurred in 1901 when a ways-and-means committee was appointed by then Exalted Ruler Jo D. Sproul (a prominent Chico attorney at the time). In May of 1903 the committee reported back on seven different established buildings in the downtown area including the amounts for which they could be procured. Brother Sproul pointed out that the acquisition of any property was only the first step and that the Lodge with less than $4,000 in cash should not undertake the purchase of any of these properties. None of the properties recommended by the committee was purchased. Instead, a vacant lot on W. 2 nd Street, adjacent to the Chico Public Library was acquired, currently the building at this location is known at the El Rey Theatre of Chico.
As a result of Chico Elks Lodge acquiring the real property, it became necessary to form the Elks Hall Association in 1903 to manage and maintain the property. An elegant three story building was erected of brick and stone featuring elaborate decorative masonry work. The construction of the first Lodge home was performed by Miller & Mathews Contractors and Commercial Builders of San Francisco. They contracted to build the 30,000 sq. ft. facility and completed it on time for $38,870. The lower floor at street level was leased out to the owners of the Majestic Theater, now known as the El Rey. The Lodge offices and kitchen were located on the second floor while the third floor served as the Lodge meeting room, bar and ballroom.
This beautiful new home was completed and dedicated early in 1907. This facility served the Lodge’s needs for the next 30 years. This new building was financed by creating a corporation that sold shares to the members at $25 each. By 1931 the indebtedness was retired with all member shareholders repaid in full.
In 1938 the Lodge’s first home on West 2 nd Street was sold to the parent company of the Majestic Theatre for $50,000 cash, with the Lodge reserving a lease on the second and third floors of the building. The Lodge continued to conduct its meetings and social activities at the above mentioned location from 1938 until March 1941.
Currently the building is known as the El Rey Theatre of Chico and many Chicoans do not know the complete story of this historical landmark.
From March 1941 to May 1973 the Chico Elks Lodge #423’s home was located at 330 Wall Street… but that’s another story.
By Charlie Carroll, PDDGER – Lodge Historian