Earlier this year, Long Island City lost another one of its centenarian treasures. The old Elks Lodge, with its famed terracotta facade, was demolished. It started last year when developers illegally jackhammered one of the terracotta Elks, it ended in a pile of rubble that fills the cellar walls.
Built in 1907 and originally housing the Queens chapter of the Elks fraternal order, it later became a union hall for the Sheet Metal Workers, who sold the building in 2015. Fearing the inevitable, locals organized to save the building and filed with the city to landmark the Elks Lodge. Immediately, in an effort to prevent any preservation, the building’s owner began to destroy Long Island City’s only terracotta Elks. The rest is history.
A local Long Island City photographer documented the final year inside the Elks Lodge, capturing intimate up-close photos of each of the three terracotta elk sculptures, which are on display at The Factory this weekend and next. The photographer shared other photos from the Elks Lodge with Untapped Cities and provided their account of the building.
The Citibank building, Long Island City’s first modern skyscraper, began the transformation of Court Square.
The Sheet Metal Workers Union Local 137 was the final tenant of this building. Decorative sheet metal lined the walls of the foyer, as well as many of the other rooms in this building.
One of the original Elks Lodge fireplaces was hidden behind modern renovation. The original brick work for this fireplace had been covered with linoleum and wall-to-wall carpeting, hidden behind sheetrock and split down the middle into two rooms.
The second floor featured an auditorium and stage. At one point in the distant past, there was likely a skylight. The building’s only elevator ran from this room to the basement.
The rooftop provided nice low-rise views of the new Long Island City, and the Court Square 7 train station. Here, two 7 trains passed the station on a still night.
There were also opportune views of Manhattan, albeit the skyline of the new Hunters Point obscured it somewhat.
The first floor was used as office space, had a walk-in safe and a classroom. It was remarkable how the building was in absolutely perfect condition.
Where the Sheet Metal Workers put a classroom, another of the original Elks Lodge fireplaces had been hidden behind sheetrock. Although interior demolition marks the point of no return for a dying building, it is on their deathbed where most buildings reveal their final secrets.
This was the final addition to the building, and it was the first part to be demolished. This stairway led to the basement.
The Sheet Metal Workers used the basement for training purposes. The exterior basement walls were the only part of the building “saved” – more accurately, the owner did not secure a permit for their demolition.
The Elks photos are appearing as a part of UPSTANDERS!!!, one in five shows at The Factory in AWAKE! ENGAGE! TRANSFORM!, an exhibit featuring sculpture, photography, paintings, and other media, addressing causes of social justice. You can see the Elks and other fine pieces of art this weekend at The Factory (aka the old Macy’s warehouse).
When: June 3-4 and June 10-11, 2-5pm, and By Appointment
Where: The Factory LIC, 4th floor
Address: 30-30 47th Ave, Long Island City, NY 11101
Next, check out 21 outdoor art installations not to miss in NYC this month.