By Chuck King
Pictured above, the Elks Rest at Greenwood Cemetery, circa 1910. Photo courtesy of Chuck King.
I can still remember going to the beautiful Elks Lodge for the annual kids Christmas party. My brothers and I were always excited to go. I can’t recall a lot of the event itself as I was pretty young. But I do remember the presents given away were not cheap trinkets. Everyone got great gifts – no socks (or coal) here! My grandfather worked for many years as head custodian at the Elks Lodge, and my dad was a short time member. My mom worked preparing lunches there for a while, too.
The Bamontes’ Research and the Elks Rest
Around 2010, while doing research for their recently published book, The Coeur d’Alenes Gold Rush, Tony and Suzanne Bamonte were looking for information on Stephen Osburn, namesake of Osburn, Idaho. After his death in 1919, he was buried in Spokane’s Greenwood Cemetery. Mr. Osburn had been an Elks member and was buried in what is called the Elks Rest there. The lodge had purchased a large section from Greenwood in 1898 where its members could be buried. In 1907, plans were drawn by architects Cutter and Malmgren for a beautiful mausoleum topped with a life size elk on the roof.
Spokane’s Thousand Steps and the Missing Elk
Most local residents have heard of the old staircase known as the “thousand steps” at Greenwood Cemetery. If you follow these up the hillside they lead directly to the rear of the mausoleum at the Elks Rest. But for over thirty years something has been missing. The elk no longer watches over the faithful lodge members. The Elks Lodge removed the statue around 1984 and had plans to put it on top of a smaller lodge building. The Bamontes were able to gather some names of past Elks members who would possibly know what happened to the missing elk. In early 2017, they passed these names on to me.
I Go Hunting for Elk
I started searching old telephone books as well as phone records on the internet. I was able to find a few phone numbers of the old lodge members and started calling them. I was lucky to find one man who knew a lot about the subject and gave me the name of another person that he thought may have seen it last. He recalled that the elk had been badly damaged and this person was going to repair it. About this same time, the downtown Elks Lodge dissolved and the elk was forgotten.
It turns out the elk is still with us. Though the elk had been in pretty bad shape, the man in charge of the restoration has done a great job. One of the back legs had been badly damaged and the others were coming loose from the base. This problem has been fixed. The original antlers were beyond repair so he has attached real ones to it. I was able to acquire the elk from him, and I am hoping that soon he will be on display for the public to enjoy