Saved from destruction

Elks Lodge saved from demolition
by Kentucky restoration company

Building important to National
Historic Landmark District

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(March 2009) – In 11th-hour negotiations, Madison, Ind.’s historic Elks Lodge has been rescued from certain demise. Hawesville, Ky.-based ReBarr Restoration has agreed to restore the building, which was severely damaged in an arson fire in August 2006 and then further destroyed during a September 2008 windstorm.

Elks Lodge

Photo by Don Ward

The Elks Lodge on West Street
will undergo a lengthy restoration
project by ReBarr Restoration.

After several prior agreements to salvage the building failed, the Elks Lodge 524 donated what is left of the building, land and additional funds to Madison’s Cornerstone Society. Cornerstone, a local affiliation of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana, acted as a flow-through agency for the transaction. The non-profit organization then transferred the property and funds to ReBarr Restoration, owned by Carolyn Barr of Cannelton, Ind.
According to Rich Murray, president of the Cornerstone Society, there are covenants involved with the transfer of the building. Part of those are that ReBarr must come up with an emergency stabilization plan with a week of the Feb. 2 closing and must provide a restoration plan within 30 days.
“It will be a big undertaking,” said Barr in a telephone conversation. “When the other agreements failed, I couldn’t stand the thought of the building being torn down.”
She made the deal from photographs of the charred structure and said she was pleased when she actually saw it for the first time in person. “The walls are good and the corners are good,” she said. “I have an expert stone worker who will be able to work with it.”
“The building was just hours from demolition,” said Camille Fife, president of The Westerly Group, a consulting firm that specializes in preservation. “When we were against the wall after a city demolition order went out, Mayor (Tim) Armstrong and the Elks worked for hours to help with the resolution.”
The mayor delayed the order. Fife and other community members worked to help save the historic building when it became apparent the Elks Club was not going to be able to do so.
Fife, who wrote the nomination for Madison’s National Historic Landmark District status through the National Park Service, said the loss of such a prominent building as the Elks building could have weakened the status of the city’s designation. “It would make people look at us closer and wonder if we couldn’t do better,” she said.
Murray said the unique architecture of the building and the location of it in the center of the business district made it important to the designation. “It was listed separately for major designations because of its uniqueness,” he said. “We are happy that Cornerstone could help facilitate such a worthwhile effort.”
Barr became involved in the Elks building project through Greg Sekula, the southern regional director of Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana. Sekula played an important role in bringing the parties together.
In a telephone interview, Sekula said he became familiar with Barr’s work through projects in which his organization was involved in Tell City, Ind., and Cannelton. In Tell City, ReBarr Restoration is involved in a work in progress for the foundation. In Cannelton, the company helped restore an early 20th century home, “The Obrecht House.”
“The masonry work her stone mason did for us was masterful,” said Sekula. “Barr’s passion and dedication to preservation will lead her to do a good job.”
Tony Steinhardt, an Elks Club representative, said club members were happy to see someone step forward to restore the building. After the arson fire destroyed the building, the club unsuccessfully attempted to negotiate ways to save the structure. “We want to thank Cornerstone for helping in this situation, and we look forward to seeing the building rehabilitated,” he said.
Donations and grant money that were collected to save the building by the Elks were given to Cornerstone, who then passed those along to ReBarr Restoration.
Currently, the Elks Club meets at a temporary location at 313 W. First St. The five-member board of directors is looking at several options for a new permanent home for the Elks, now that they have received their insurance settlement for the burned building. They have discussed leasing the former Madison County Club, now owned by I.K.E.C. power plant, but Steinhardt said no recommendations have been made yet. Members also have considered buying and renovating the former Local Harvest Market building that is for sale on West Main Street.
“We are hoping the board will have something recommended by the end of March,” he said.

Back to March 2009 Articles.



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