“It’s been 16 years since we first saw this building. It’s been a long, difficult project—and our most fulfilling.” —Mike McMenamin, Cofounder and Owner of McMenamins, speaking at the Elks Temple Grand Opening in April 2019.
After several changes of ownership and suffering 40 years of abandonment and neglect, the Beaux Arts Elks temple landed in the hands of McMenamins Pubs, Breweries, and Historic Hotels. McMenamins, Ankrom Moisan, and a team of consultants came together to reposition the landmark as a vital part of the community, adding vibrancy and activity to Tacoma’s historic downtown.
No other building reflects the passage of time so openly as McMenamins Elks Temple. From its Beaux-Arts-inspired origins, it started out rooted in America’s “City Beautiful” movement of the dawn of the last century and transitioned to the postwar optimism of the mid-century moderns. Next, came the decades of urban decay—neglect, vandalism, and graffiti. McMenamins Elks Temple has lived through it all. The scars earned along the way are still visible.
Our approach to its preservation kept the scars that honor the full life-story of the building but give it back its historic soul. The exterior work involved repairs to the existing structure, undoing the changes from the remodels, and in some cases, restoring of decorative architectural elements that had deteriorated or had been removed. The building also received an extensive seismic upgrade.
On the interior, much more extensive work was required: first, to peel away the layers from the ‘30s and ‘40s, and secondly, to repair or replace ornamental elements that had been lost over the years. Using as much of the historic fabric as possible, the ballroom and stage invite musical performances, in addition to a game room, restaurant, five bars, 45 hotel rooms, and a flexible event room for conferences.
We worked very closely with McMenamins to preserve the history of the place while making the required interventions necessary for it to work today, like updated mechanical systems and new lighting that’s uniquely curated for each guest room.
No two rooms are the same, and most of them have views over Puget Sound or out to Tacoma's historic downtown. Some are placed within the double-height "Temple Room", which is where The Elks held their swearing in ceremonies. This room is now designed to feel like a small village street, with skylights that shine natural daylight on the live plants in the corridors below.