Chico Elks Lodge #423 has erected and occupied three homes in Chico. The second home was located at 330 Wall Street in Downtown Chico, and served the membership well from March 1941 until May 1973.
There was an acceleration of growth in membership immediately after World War II due to the return of American veterans. By 1949 the membership had burgeoned in excess of 850 members. From this time the Lodge continued to grow with a steady increase in membership. By the late 1950’s it was obvious that the membership had outgrown the lodge facility located at 330 Wall Street. In the fall of 1959, an ambitious effort was undertaken by the three senior leaders of the lodge, Stan Marshall, Jack Vanella and Herb Kittridge to find the perfect location in which to construct a new lodge building. Several different sites were considered and submitted to the general membership by the above mentioned committee of three prominent leaders of the Lodge. In passing it should be noted that all three of these brothers served as Exalted Ruler and subsequently elected to District Deputy Grand Exalted Ruler.
In 1962, then Exalted Ruler, Stan Marshall, with the assistance of Jack Vanella, proposed to the Lodge approximately 13 acres of land located across the road from the north entrance of Bidwell Park, as a possible site to erect a new Lodge home. The property, now known as 1705 Manzanita Avenue, was acquired with a majority of the members voting for the purchase.
During the intervening years and under the astute guidance of the late Stan Marshall and Jack Vanella, a concentrated effort was made to proceed with the plans to erect a new facility. In 1965 the finalized plans for the new building project were put out to bid. At this particular time it was determined that the Lodge, having exhausted nearly all of its funds in acquiring the land, did not qualify for the large loan needed to start construction of the new building. From 1965 until the Spring of 1972 the Lodge continued to accumulate funds for the new building project. Much of this financial assistance was provided by the members through the purchase of building certificates.
With the much improved financial structure of Chico Lodge #423, a loan was made by Chico Savings and Loan on the corner of 1 st and Main Streets, in the amount of $370,000. This enabled the building program to get underway. Formal ground breaking ceremonies were held July 19, 1972. Then Exalted Ruler John Patterson had the honor of breaking ground with the golden shovel starting construction of the massive building project. On hand to witness the ceremonies and aid in the commencement of the project were many local and state dignitaries.
Construction of the new Lodge building was completed May 5, 1973 at a cost of nearly $900,000. The formal dedication of the new Lodge was observed June 30 and July 1, 1973. Under the direction of then Exalted Ruler Don Spring the dedication ceremonies were conducted with many invited Elk dignitaries and celebrities. Chuck Priddy served as the chairman of the building committee. Still living members of that same committee are Don Spring, Jack Thorpe, Gilbert Jones, Don Deter and Charlie Carroll.
During the 1950’s and 60’s, Chico Elks Lodge was the social center of local activities and events. Not only was the Lodge’s calendar always well filled with Elks functions for the members, but the facilities were also shared with other organizations in the community. In serving food and beverages to non-members during functions that were not Elks activities, some changes had to be made to comply with updated and changing laws. Consequently, in 1965, it was necessary to create the Chico Elks Catering Corporation. This new entity was a legal California tax paying corporation governed by a board and catering manager. The purpose of the Catering Corporation was to provide all foods and beverages not only to Elk members but also to other service clubs and organizations using the Elks facility. This method of operation remained in practice until 1995.
By Charlie Carroll, PDDGER – Lodge Historian