Our Elks Lodge in Beaumont
HISTORY OF BEAUMONT ELKS LODGE #311
Beaumont, Texas was instituted an Elks Lodge on November 8, 1894 as Lodge #290, under the “Rump Faction” of Grand Lodge, when dissention had split the Elks into two factions. On July 11th 1895, following the reconciliation of the two separate factions back into one solid Grand Lodge, the Beaumont Lodge was granted its Charter as Lodge #311.
The original Elks home was a three story building downtown near the seaport. Looking through the membership registers reveals names of the founding fathers of the city, many streets and public buildings bear the names of the early members of the Order. You can hear people talk about the wonderful formal dances held in the beautiful ballroom and the elaborate parties where ladies were allowed to attend, otherwise the Lodge was a “men only” haven.
Disgrace befell the Lodge when it was raided and charged with gambling. When the story hit the front page of the newspaper the Elks fell from the social ladder it had enjoyed in the eyes of the Beaumont citizens. The Lodge was moved to four different locations after this episode before it moved to its present location on Highway 90 West in 1971.
In 1979 the Port Arthur Lodge #1069 and the Mid-County Lodge #2447 closed their Lodge homes and joined the Beaumont Lodge. The Port Arthur Lodge was chartered in 1907 and prominent business and professional men floated enough bonds to construct an imposing Elks Theater Building in downtown Port Arthur, a genuine theater with all the equipment and trappings to hold professional stage productions with the Lodge and clubroom on the 3rd floor. In 1941 the Elks Theater was purchased by the City and the Elks were given property a couple of blocks away on which to build a new home which served as a “home away from home” for hundreds of servicemen during World War II while they were in Port Arthur to guard the refineries and waterways.
The passage of time found the Port Arthur Elks Lodge caught in an Urban Renewal Program and the property on which the Lodge sat was taken over and converted to a parking lot for city and county employees at the adjoining County Courthouse and City Hall. After an unsuccessful attempt at reestablishing itself at a refurbished funeral home ten blocks away and a joint venture with the “new” Mid-County Lodge #2447 in 1975, it was decided by vote of the joint lodges to turn the property and the charters to Beaumont Lodge #311 in 1979 ending a seven decade history of Port Arthur lodge #1069.
The only information available about the Mid-County Lodge #2447 is that it was instituted on May 30, 1970 and joined with Port Arthur Lodge #1069 on May 1, 1975 which later merged with the Beaumont Lodge on June 19, 1979.
Having originally been a “white men only” fraternal organization, The Elks organization has evolved into an organization that welcomes people of all races, creeds and nationalities and at the Grand Lodge Convention held in New Orleans, La in 1995 voted to allow women members to join.
Unfortunately following Hurricane Rita which devastated much of Beaumont on September 23, 2005 a power surge caught the Elks home on fire and completely destroyed the building and all its contents. These contents included, not only the Beaumont Lodge furnishings, but also what had been given to the Lodge by Port Arthur Lodge # 1069 and Mid-County Lodge #2447. The Beaumont Lodge furnishings included a hand carved Black Forest Organ Clock purchased in Europe in the 1840’s for $3,700. This clock was handcarved in a small village along the edge of the Schwarzwald or Black Forest. It often took a decade to carve one clock. This beautiful, one of kind, clock was donated by Mrs. Charles Hageman after the death of her husband in 1925. In addition the fire destroyed two sets of ritual furniture, one of which was made in England and originally used in a Moose Lodge, then at New York Elks Lodge #1 until purchased by one of the founding fathers of the Port Arthur Lodge in 1911.
Following the fire in September 2005 the Lodge operated out of a small construction trailer in the parking lot for nearly three years until the current Lodge home could be constructed. The new Lodge was dedicated May 3, 2008 . The Lodge room furniture in the new Lodge was donated by the Piqua. Ohio Lodge #523 which was surrendering their charter at the time we were searching for replacement ritual furniture.
Beaumont Lodge sits on a seven acre piece of property and the entire 7 acres is licensed by the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission as a liquor establishment. In the late 1980’s a portion of the property was developed as an RV park that welcomes visiting Elk members to stay and visit awhile.
Many members of Beaumont Lodge #311 say they have “seen” and “heard” Louis Kayatt walking the old and the new building during the early morning hours. Louis was initiated on January 28, 1953 and served every chair, served as District Deputy for the East District and at the State Convention in Houston in June of 1974 he was elected to the President-Elect position of the Texas Elks State Association. Louis became ill at the Fall Conference in Pasadena in November of 1974 and died in January of 1975, before having the opportunity to serve as State President for the great state of Texas. To date, Louis is the only member of Beaumont Lodge to be elected to serve State President of TESA.
We are very proud to have survived the destruction of our Lodge home and continue to welcome new members and encourage the long term members to be involved in our charitable works and social activities.