As promised, here is a bit more about our city’s very own:

Historic Elks Building – Union Street Gallery

1527 Otto Blvd.

Designated a local landmark November 2001, this structure was built to serve as the home of Lodge Number 1066 Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks and occupied in 1927. At the time, the Chicago Heights Star newspaper proclaimed it “the finest and most complete club home in the city. The building has every modern convenience to make it an attractive place for members and their friends. There are two beautiful reception rooms for men and women, a lodge room and a kitchen on the first floor. On the second floor there is a large and beautifully arranged parlor equipped with attractive furniture, including a piano and a victrola. There are card games, billard rooms, another kitchen for smaller parties, and a hard-ball court with shower baths in connection.”

The building is red brick decorated with locally produced white terra cotta.  Inscribed prominently above the terra cotta entranceway is “B.P.O.E.1066”. High on the building, above the center second-story window, is a polychrome terra-cotta medallion depicting an elk head along with a clock.

The Elks closed the lodge in 1942 and in 1945 local merchant, Charles Pressendo, opened a furniture store at the location, remodeling the first floor to include two storefront display windows. The store remained open until 1978.

Picture of the Elks lodge during the City Hall fire in the 50’s

After twenty-seven years the building was sensitivly rehabilitated to house the Union Street Gallery, a not-for-profit arts incubator open to all artists that was being displaced from another building in the city.  The renovation preserved the original facade as well as the later added display windows. On the interior, the two-story open gallery space features the original steel I-beams above the mezanine level and main gallery. The third floor is filled with artists’ studios.

This blog entry has been co-written with CHHPAC member Pete Petrouski. Pete is also currently the president of Union Street Gallery’s board.

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