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Columbia Lodge No. 85 of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks of the World was incorporated in 1906, eight years after the parent organization was formed in Cincinnati, Ohio. Its first meeting was held at the True Reformer Hall at 1200 U Street, NW. By the 1940s, the organization counted 3,000 members.

In 1925 the Elks purchased a house from the estate of David McClelland to serve as their headquarters. Located at 301 Rhode Island Avenue, it was designed by Roscoe Ingersoll Vaughn. The McClelland family once owned orchards that extended north from their house to Elm Street. In the 1930s the Elks often held Sunday afternoon band concerts on the grounds. Later the house was demolished, and the Elks obtained their current property around the corner on Third Street. The current Elks Hall Lodge was designed in 1968 by architect Stewart Daniel Hoban, Sr. (1928-2002).

The Elks were well known for the grand parades they held on U Street. As a fraternal organization, they worked to promote group solidarity, charity, justice, and patriotism with special assistance dedicated to families of Elks members.

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