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August 11, 2011 - 3:54pm

UMMC in process of demolishing former Elks Lodge on East Main Street

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, history, UMMC.

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.

Lisa Falkowski
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A crying shame that his building and our local history should come to [email protected]#
Paul Weiss
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What a sad day for Batavia.
Brenda Ranney
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Please tell me that UMMC has made arrangements to have all that wonderful woodwork salvaged ? The engraved stone over the door ? Bricks could be re-purposed into patios and raised garden beds. It would have been nice to have at the very least a good bye tour for the community.
Howard B. Owens
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I'm told the bar and back bar was sold. There are still glass bricks in some of the windows and not sure what will happen to those. I asked Colleen Flynn specifically about the stone/granite Elks sign over the front door and she said she didn't know what would happen to it.
Jason Brunner
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I grew up in that building with my Grandfather and my Father both being Exalted Rulers of the Elk's Lodge. It is a sad day indeed when someone tears a building down just because they can. There is no plan in place, nothing essential to put there. "You've got to pick your battles, I guess, and this isn't one I would pick," she said. I'm sure sorry she feels that way.
Bea McManis
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This past week, I did a 'conversation starter' using old postcards of the "village of Batavia" Main St. as it was in the early 1920s. It was a good reminder of what we had and what is now forever lost. Presenting a sterile Main St., devoid of any character, is not the answer to attracting new business or new residents. We can't get back what we've lost. That 1920s Main St had character. http://www.familyoldphotos.com/8c/NYcoll/batavia.html
Paul Weiss
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The Final Toast …The hour of eleven has a tender significance. Wherever an Elk may roam, whatever their lot in life may be, when this hour falls upon the dial of night the great heart of Elkdom swells and throbs. It is the golden hour of recollection , the homecoming of those that wander, the mystic roll call of those who will come no more. Living or dead an Elk is never forgotten, never forsaken. Morning or noon may pass them by, the light of day sink heedlessly in the West. But err the shadows of midnight shall fall the chimes of memory will be peeling forth that friendly message, TO OUR ABSENT MEMBERS
Brenda Ranney
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Thank you Howard for the update. Perhaps the engraved header could be donated to the Holland Land Office. It would be nice if Ms. Flynn could make that happen. Bea, have you ever seen that video about Batavia in the late 1940's ? I want to say that it had been funded by the Moose or maybe the Elks, or the Chamber, I rented it years ago from the library. Not sure if it's still available to check out. I'm sure you'd enjoy it. It was fascinating to see a vibrant busy main street people shopping and walking, and the Middle school which of course was the high school then.
Jason Brunner
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Paul they read that at my Grandfather's memorial service. Always brings a tear to my eye. There were some great men and later some great women as a part of that lodge. Wonderful givers to God and community.
Bea McManis
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Brenda, I have seen the videos. We are fortunate to have people who took the time to gather those films and preserve them. The business district of our childhood is long gone. It can't be recreated. The works of Mr. Homelius, and those of his father are disappearing. I found this article about the Homelius family at http://thedailynewsonline.com/news/article_ff44ee15-d200-51b7-880e-7be2f... "Frank was considered very good looking and charming. He fell in love with Maud Scoville Hugaboom, a married woman with a young daughter Eleanor. The day after her divorce was final Frank and Maud wed. Eleanor Homelius went on to be a respected and loved teacher. As an English teacher she taught many generations of young people at Batavia High School; an interesting fact considering her stepfather never graduated from high school." Who would have thought at Miss Homelius had such an interesting history? In addition to the Elks Club, "Frank, like his father was a gifted builder but Frank completed many home and building renovations. His first project after his father's death was the renovation of the Brisbane Mansion into Batavia's City Hall. He also remodeled the Dipson and Atwater homes. He put an addition on the Richmond Mansion that was used as the Children's Home. Frank also built the addition to the Richmond Memorial Library by adding a children's room in the lower level of the original building. This is not to be confused with the newer addition in the 1970's as the current children's room. He also designed St. Anthony's Community Center. Frank's father had 32 Ellicott Street as his proudest accomplishment; Frank would have 39 Ross Street as his. Frank built the 6,000-square-foot home for Frank Thomas of the Thomas Coal Company. In 1926 the Thomas home cost $125,000 to build this beautiful home. Frank employed 50 craftsmen from the Batavia Woodworking Company to work on the construction of the house. The Batavia Woodworking Company consisted of skilled carpenters, bricklayers, masons, and millwrights. These were the craftsman that Frank used for his buildings. When looking at this beautiful home today you will note the red tile roof. The horizontal lines of the home suggest the Prairie Style. Frank built many Queen Anne-style homes throughout the city. You can still admire these homes on Summit Street and Lewis Avenue. The Batavia Woodworking company became very skilled with what designs constitute a Frank Homelius Home. They borrowed his designs and built homes that were called Homelius Design Homes. These homes can be found on Kibbe Avenue, Morton Avenue, South Jackson St., and Ellicott Street. Frank lived in bungalow at 35 Richmond St. He was known for his kindness and being the second Democrat to serve as mayor in the history of Batavia. The construction of MacArthur Stadium's grandstand, bleachers, and press box in 1939 is considered the last design of Frank H. Homelius. There was one project that Frank never had the opportunity to complete. He wanted to build an annex to the Holland Land Office Museum. This would include a library containing works of history about Batavia and Genesee County. Frank died on Nov. 20, 1941 and with his death ended the remarkable era of the talented craftsmen, Henry W. Homelius and Frank W. Homelius."
Amy Platten
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This is really sad for Batavia. They should preserve these buildings not demolish them. When will they learn?
Brandon Burger
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What would be done with this building if it were to be preserved?
Howard B. Owens
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Whatever the owner who preserved it wished to do with it.
Brandon Burger
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Sorry, Howard, I should have clarified my question; if we are determined to preserve these "historic" buildings, how long are we (and the owners) supposed to wait for someone to come along and do it?
Sarah Christopher
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Who is this "they" that should be restoring all of Batavia's older buildings? Should the city buy these "historic" properties and use our tax money to preserve them? If these are privately owned buildings, then the owner has a right to whatever they want with it. Thank goodness they are doing something instead of leaving another vacant eyesore in this town.
Howard B. Owens
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The Batavia Times building set vacant for more than a decade. A couple of ambitious entrepreneurs eventually bought it, gutted the inside, completely rebuilt the inside with all new walls and fixtures, added a modern kitchen and a handsome bar and we now know it as Center Street Smoke House.
Howard B. Owens
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Or to put it another way -- UMMC bought the building almost immediately after it was listed. There was little time to see if there was any other market for it. What was the hurry to make sure it was purchased and torn down with no real plans for the property? Let it sit on the market until you need it, because maybe somebody else will come along and turn it into something special in the meantime. Sure, you lose out on the land if that happens, but at least you're not in a position of tearing down a building for no good reason. If the property sits and is still available when you do need it, the price probably comes down and there's been a chance to see if there is any market interest in the property.
C. M. Barons
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At the very least, communities could identify historically significant structures and designate them as such. One has to wonder about the value of razing a structurally sound building to be replaced by a parking lot or Burger King, McDonalds, WalMart, KMart, Midas Muffler, Arby's, Denny's, Domino's, KFC, Outback, Perkins, Pizza Hut, Red Lobster, Subway, Taco Bell, Wendy's, Walgreens, CVS, Riteaid, Target, Home Depot, Lowes, Sams Club, Dollar Tree, Dollar General... At the very least- a structure such as the one slated for demolition CAN BE renovated. What does one do with a vacant , single-use commercial building?
Mark Potwora
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CM and Howard great points both of you..It is to bad that this will just be more non profit property...The Elks held many great memories for me..St.Joes drum corp made it one of there many after corps stops..Memorial Day we always stopped and play a few songs in front of the Elks..It will be missed..It was not so much about the building but as to what memories it help for all in Batavia....
Howard B. Owens
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Somebody reminded me today, the property wasn't on the tax roles when the Elks owned it.
George Richardson
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But when you left me, oh how I cried.
Paul Weiss
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Having served as an officer for eight years, I know full well that the Elks Lodge building was on the tax rolls.

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