Built in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, the BPOE Building was a key contributor to the Main Street Historic District’s commercial growth in the 1920s. The former home to the Elks fraternal organization represents the maturation of Santa Monica during the period, and the peak of commercial development in the years just prior to the onset of the Great Depression.
It was the first purpose-built facility constructed for the Elks in the city, necessitated by an increase in membership of Lodge 906 during this period. The growth of the Santa Monica Chapter was mirrored nationwide as fraternal organizations expanded in number in the years immediately following World War I. There are over 30 BPOE buildings in the United States that are currently listed in the National Register.
The architect, Calrence H. Russell, in partnership with Norman F. Marsh, is credited with designing many principal buildings in Venice, Calif., including Abbot Kinney’s Venetian style city in Ocean Park.
The Elks building incorporates a decorative architectural program typical of the Italian Renaissance Revival style closely associated with the Spanish Colonial Revival style in its derivations of Italian domestic architecture incorporating Greek and Roman elements imitating Italian palazzos. The building is executed in cast stone, exemplified by its main entrance surround on Main Street, embellishments that adorn the second story pilasters, composite capitals that top the piers on both Main Street and Pier Avenue, and exterior wall cladding in brick and plaster. The building “provides great aesthetic interest and value,” according to a City of Santa Monica landmarks report.
The building was constructed for $350,000 and was later altered to accommodate the Hotel Carlton in 1941. The lodge, which filed for bankruptcy, eventually lost the property in 1936 to foreclosure after suffocating under $585,000 of debt. The local lodge then moved to their earlier location on Ocean Avenue and are currently located on Pico Boulevard. For the past 30 years the building has been home to the all-natural grocery store One Life Natural Foods. Current businesses there also include a celebrated Italian restaurant and an electric bike retailer, and there are now several apartments on the upper floors.