Washington Lodge No. 15 was home to the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (BPOE). Founded in 1868 as a social club, BPOE is similar to the Freemasons in rites, traditions, and regalia. Until 1973, membership was restricted to white men. A year prior to the building’s demolition, the qualifications for membership included being male, at least twenty-one years old, belief in a Supreme Being, a citizen of the United States, and not a member of the Communist Party. This particular lodge included many of Washington’s prominent men as members.
Designed by B. Stanley Simmons (1871-1931), Washington Lodge No. 15 was built in the Beaux-Arts style common at the turn of the century. The building was ornamented with stone swags, urn baluster balconies, portrait busts, and large elks’ heads. DC’s 1978 preservation law was designed to protect buildings like the Elks Lodge; however, the law allows for the demolition of historic buildings if the proposed project is deemed to be one of special merit or necessary in the public interest by the Mayor’s Agent on Historic Preservation. Razed in 1980, the Elks Lodge was replaced by the Washington Convention Center, a $99 million project meant to draw much needed business back to the city. The Washington Convention Center operated until 2004 when it was replaced by the nearby Walter E. Washington Convention Center. The site is now part of the City Center development– a mixed use development project that includes a hotel, high-end retail and residential towers.
DC Inventory: April 29, 1975