UMMC in process of demolishing former Elks Lodge on East Main Street
Batavia, with its legacy of demolishing its own history, is about to lose another landmark building.
The former Batavia Elks Lodge at 213 E. Main St. was purchased in December by United Memorial Medical Center for $143,500.
Workers have already removed windows and completed asbestos abatement.
Colleen Flynn, spokeswoman for UMMC, said the hospital regularly tries to acquire property adjacent to its own facilities when possible.
"We're sort of landlocked," Flynn said. "When certain buildings come up for sale we buy them for future growth."
Her own office on North Street is in a house the hospital acquired to create more space for staff, she noted.
The building housed the Elks in Batavia for nearly 100 years. The current Art Deco facade was added in the 1920s and designed by Frank Homelius, a Batavia resident and one of the premier architects of Western New York in the early 20th Century. His father, Henry Homelius designed many of Batavia's grander homes of the 19th Century. (*see update below)
Flynn noted that the building does not have any historical designation.
Laurie Oltramari, president of the Genesee County Landmark Society, said given the current state of the north side of East Main Street, she doesn't thinking losing the building is going to detract too much from the character of the city.
"You've got to pick your battles, I guess, and this isn't one I would pick," she said.
Though, Oltramari, added, she hates to see such a building destroyed without a plan.
UMMC will landscape the property once the building is removed and has no immediate plans to construct another building at the location.
Jeffery Donahue, director of the Holland Land Office Museum, was saddened to hear the news the building would be torn down.
"It's always a shame to lose one of the landmark buildings of Batavia," Donahue said. "We lose a little bit of history every time."
UMMC won an award from the Landmark Society earlier this year for its restoration of the former St. Jerome's Hospital, turning it into senior housing.
"The building (Elks Lodge) was not in good condition for renovation," Flynn said. "We do everything we can to protect and preserve Batavia's history."
Later in the day, Flynn issued a press release with the following quote:
The former Elk’s Club required extensive updates and renovations for reuse and was not handicap accessible. Coupled with the costs associated with making it handicap accessible and meeting NYS Department of Health regulations for healthcare use, it was decided that the building should be razed and the site would be improved with appropriate landscaping.
Over the years, Batavia has seen the north side of his downtown district demolished and replaced by a characterless mall and lost such grand structures as the Trumbull Cary Mansion and the Dean Richmond Mansion (the location is now a parking lot).
Local author Bill Kauffman, who has lamented previous losses to Batavia's cultural heritage, most notably in his book Dispatches from the Muckdog Gazette, was upset this morning to hear about the Elks Lodge demolition.
"It's a shame," Kauffman said. "The Elks Lodge is a landmark of working-class Batavia, designed by Batavia's great architectual family."
UPDATE: County documents show an application was made in 1950 to add the current facade to the building. Frank Homelius died in 1941. The information we use in the story above comes from a book on Frank and his father.