In the next few years, expect one of downtown’s largest 100-year-old buildings to meet with the wrecking ball. Few will notice or care.
Here’s how the once-grand 140 E. Oak became disposable:
1908: The Y.M.C.A. builds 140 E. Oak , with 34 sleeping rooms, swimming pool, state-of-the-art gymnasium, and raised jogging track. Designed by Ft. Collins’ premier architect, Montezuma Fuller.
1938: The Elks buy the building from the ailing Y.M.C.A. and redecorate in art deco style. Few of Fuller’s original elements remain visible. Note change in porch, roof, and window decorations (below).
1977: Building explodes. 113 downtown businesses report damage. Cause believed to be a leaky gas pipe in the basement. Felt as far away as Timnath.
1979: Building reopens. Modernized again to resemble a bunker. Club includes bar, pool hall, bowling alley, and sauna. Elks exalted ruler says the remodel provides a fresh image. The Elks is no longer “an old owl’s club,” he says. Membership soars to 2000+.
2008: Fraternal clubs everywhere suffer aging and shrinking membership. With bar as center of club activity, BPOE no longer stands for “Benevelant and Protective Order of Elk,” some say, but “Booze Poured on Everything.”
Elks sell out to the Downtown Development Authority and begin move to old Moose lodge on highway 14 (East Mulberry). DDA planned convention center in the location. But plans remain unclear. Many expect building’s destruction within few years.
2008: Alley behind Elk’s club named for Montezuma Fuller.
I wrote this to make a point about trendiness in remodeling and how our tastes change. It goes on everywhere. I don’t mean to single out or disparage the Elks. All the evidence is that within a few decades we may come to miss our 1970s architecture and curse those so eager to tear it down in 2009.
Over the past 100 years, Elks have made significant and generous contributions to Fort Collins and were kind enough to give me an impromtu tour just for showing up at the front door. I wish them all the best!