Reno Elks Lodge #597 History
Reno Elks Lodge by the Truckee River - August 26, 1908
The Reno Elks Lodge will turn 120 years old on June 30, 2020. Take a historical tour of Reno Lodge's long and glorious path in Elkdom and it's multitude of services to the community, state and nation.
June 30, 1900: Reno Lodge #597 receives charter by BPOE Grand Lodge
December 19, 1909: First "Uncle Dan's Charity Dinner" is held.
February 26, 1921: Elks Home survives a small fire.
December 14, 1930: Attendance at "Uncle Dan's Dinner" reaches 400
June 30, 1950: Reno Elks celebrate the 50th birthday of the Lodge
February 5, 1957: Reno Elks home destroyed in explosion and fire
February 7, 1960: Ground breaking ceremonies are held for the Lodge at 597 Kumle Lane
February 5, 1961: New Lodge is dedicated on land donated by Raymond I. "Pappy" Smith
January 9, 1987: Reno Elks almost lost Lodge due to financial difficulties
January 29, 1987; Reno Elks Lodge re-opened
July 19, 1987: Fire damages Elks Lodge
June 14, 1998: Elks bring traveling Vietnam Wall War Memorial to Reno for Flag Day
June 30, 2000: Reno Elks Celebrate 100th birthday
November 10, 2001: 92nd "Uncle Dan's Charity Dinner" is held
July 5, 2002: Grand Lodge Convention comes to Reno
July 5, 2005: Grand Lodge Convention comes to Reno
August 28, 2011: Dedication Ceremonies are held for the newly remodeled Lodge
August 1, 2012: Reno Elks win Grand Lodge Western Conference Ritual Competition
July 29, 2013: Grand Lodge Convention comes to Reno
July 5, 2017: Grand Lodge Convention comes to Reno
March 4, 2020: Lodge closes due to worldwide COVID-19 pandemic
June 11, 2020: Lodge reopens with prescribed protocols amidst COVID-19 pandemic
"The Early Years" - 1900 to 1960
First Order Nevada Elks B.P.O.E.
The Reno Elks Lodge of the B.P.O.E. Was chartered as Lodge No. 597 on June 30, 1900 and was installed by D.D.G.E.R. F.L. Gray and officers of the Sacramento, Nevada City and Grass Valley Lodges. The Charter list of the Reno Lodge consisted of 45 men who were "among the best citizens of the State of Nevada".
(Reno Gazette, July 1, 1900).
From its chartering in 1900 until the completion of the Reno Elks Home in April of 1904, the Lodge met in the city’s “Investment Hall.” On April 23, 1904, the Lodge dedicated its new home at 50 North Sierra Street, where it resided for 53 years. The new building had the appearance of a grand private residence. Through the entry portico and main glass and mahogany doors, a grand central hall opened to large reception rooms on either side. A great stairway led upstairs to the spacious lodge room, and the finishings throughout were in mahogany and weathered oak with velvet carpets.
Originally, a beautiful park-like lawn area filled with mature trees stretched from the building’s entrance northward to First Street. In 1937, Sierra Construction Company, owned by Norman Biltz and Dr. Theodore Chase, purchased the park area and had all the towering trees as well as the building’s lovely columned portico removed so they could construct a two-story modern mercantile building with a full basement in front of the Elks Home. A new entrance to the Elks was created on Sierra Street. In 1938, the Gray-Reid-Wright department store moved into the neighboring commercial building.
During the early years, the Reno Lodge was Nevada's only Lodge and included Elks from the mining camps of Tonopah and Goldfield. During the year of 1907, the Tonopah and Goldfield Elks formed their own lodges because it was becoming too difficult to travel 300 miles to Reno Lodge meetings and Elk events.
The Reno Lodge was very active in Elkdom during its first 60 years. The Reno Elks Home was a social center of the community and the Elks performed many, many acts of charity in and around Reno. The first "Uncle Dan's" night was hosted by "Uncle Dan" Wheeler himself on December 19, 1909. This dinner, which is the primary way by, which the Reno Elks raise money for their charitable activities, has been held every year since during or just before the holidays. During the years between 1904 and 1957, the Reno Elks Home was flooded twice by the Truckee River and survived a small fire.
"The Day That Changed Lodge History"
February 5, 1957 - Gas Explosion & Fire
On February 5, 1957, however, the luck of the building ran out and the Reno Elks Home was destroyed by a disastrous gas explosion and fire. There were many who were very lucky to escape the blast, but they couldn't have done so without the help of others. One such man who was responsible for saving many lives was J.C. Kumle.
Dr. Kern Karrasch had left the Elks club earlier than he usually does that afternoon, and after walking outside, he noticed a gas odor. Karrasch went back inside in order to notify the Secretary and Manager of the Reno Elks at the time, J.C. "Cliff" Kumle. EVACUATE! That's all that ran through Kumle's head at that moment. So he proceeded to execute the evacuation of the Lodge and was credited with averting further tragedy by promptly evacuating 74 members from the lunch and card rooms with only minor injuries reported. Thus saving numerous Elk member's lives.
From March of 1957 until the current lodge was completed in 1961, the Reno Elks Lodge met at the historic Mapes Hotel and the old Holiday Hotel Casino, in downtown Reno.
"Rising from the ashes..." - 1960 to 1987
Rising from the ashes of the explosion and fire that destroyed their beautiful home at 50 North Sierra Street, the Reno Elks persevered to begin a new chapter in the history of the Lodge with the ground breaking of their new facility south of the downtown area. After petitioning the City of Reno for a name change, the address for the new Lodge facility became the now 597 Kumle Lane, in honor of former Lodge Secretary, J.C. Kumle.
Built "out of town" on five acres of property donated by Raymond I. "Pappy" Smith, owner of Harold's Club Casino, the new Reno Lodge was at the time of its completetion, among the finest buildings of its type in the west. The new Lodge facility was dedicated on February 5, 1961; four years to the day from the 1957 catastrophe that changed Lodge history.
The new Lodge is a ranch-style building for family participation in Elk affairs. On June 8, 1963, the largest volume public swimming pool in Reno was opened to the membership and quickly became a major attraction to the Lodge.
The Reno Lodge of the B.P.O.E. rose to its greatest numbers during the years between 1960 and 1987. The new facility attracted many members and was, ultimately, the reason for the decline in membership to some of its lowest levels. Men's and women's athletic facilities were built in the mid 1980's and the resulting cost caused a significant increase in the annual membership dues. As a result, many members chose not to continue in Elkdom. Financial difficulties and another potentially disastrous fire, almost caused the Reno Elks to close their doors in July 1987. Despite the prolonged hardship, the Lodge survived and continued to slowly prosper.
"Hard work pays off" - The 2000's
Although smaller in numbers, the Reno Lodge is in as good a shape as it has ever been in many years. Regaining days of past glories, Reno Lodge welcomed all of Elkdom to National Grand Lodge Conventions in the years 2002, 2005, 2013 & 2017.
With the Ritual Team being the cornerstone of the Reno Lodge Officer Corps, at Grand Lodge Convention in Austin, TX in 2012, Reno Lodge exceled to the Final Four, by placing first in the Western Regional Division and representing the western half of the United States in the competition. Reno did their Lodge proud with Exalted Ruler Frank Reynolds III, Lecturing Knight Ken DuBois and Ritual Coach Dee Boskie bringing home "All-American" honors for being the best in their respective positions for all of Elkdom in the United States.
"A Major Facelift"
March thru August 2011
Once again the determination and leadership of the Reno Elks Lodge came shining through. After the misfortunes of 1987, the '90's moved along pretty much as the status quo. However, a casino deal to purchase the property and Lodge fell through with the Lodge obtaining a financial windfall that, once again, resurrected the membership and afforded the opportunity to remodel the existing facility. After a lengthy remodel that began in March of 2011, the redesigned facility was dedicated in a ceremony on August 28, 2011 to the amazement of all who attended.
"The Finished Project"
The road has not always been easy, however, today the Reno Elks Lodge is moving forward with great strides to promote Elkdom throughout the City of Reno and State of Nevada with over 1,500 members and still growing. They continue to strongly support the various Veterans organizations and local students with numerous scholarships. The charity work to which this Lodge consistantly dedicates its resources are no more visible than with their Christmas Food Basket program; a volunteer service that provides food to over 200 families each holiday season.
Fires, floods, and financial woes over the years; and even a worldwide pandemic which temporarily closed the Lodge doors for 3 months, have not detered the Reno Elks Lodge from their storied past through the rich traditions of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity which are as prevelant today as they were 120 years ago.
A special "Thank You" to Frank & Marie Reynolds, Dee Boskie and the State of Nevada Historical Society for their contributions to this page.