Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Empty Building at 5th & Lakeside

A large building sits empty at the SW corner of 5th and Lakeside in downtown Coeur d'Alene.  Perhaps you have walked by and wondered what it was, and why you can see through the building.

This was originally the Lodge for the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks, Club 1254.  It was a grand lodge that featured a beautiful ballroom with a stage.  Besides Elks functions, there were a variety of community events.  Locals growing up in Coeur d'Alene in the 50's and 60's remember things like kid's magic shows and Christmas pageants in that ballroom.

Between property taxes and a (nationwide) drop in fraternal organization membership, the Elks Club remodeled the building in the late 1970's and turned the majority of space into The 1254 Athletic Club and leaving just a couple meeting rooms and the bar as the Elks Club proper.

The 1254 Athletic Club had 3 racquetball courts, a workout room, therapy spa tub and steam room.  It had a decent membership into the early 1980's when the Elks built a new facility on Prairie Avenue.  Then the building was emptied.

Over the following years the building was slowly gutted.  A few weak efforts to rejuvenate the building fell through, leaving it as it is today.  You can look in the front windows and see out the back.

The building's shell is still a beautiful structure but the amount of money that it would take to bring it back to life is probably more than it is worth.  City codes also require new buildings in the downtown area must provide parking or pay an offsetting fee, making a rebirth even more expensive.

It's a darn shame this old building has sat empty for so long.  It takes up a quarter of a block and has become a bit of an eyesore as it sits and rots.  Maybe it will end up like the Wilma Theatre, left to sit for so many years it just implodes, ending up as another small pocket park such as the ones at 2nd and Sherman (The Wilma) and between 3rd and 4th on Sherman (Woolworth's).

It's worth noting that Sandpoint didn't let their old theatre, The Panida, fade away.  The Panida has turned into a popular venue for live entertainment, concerts and special movie presentations.

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