Honolulu Lodge #616 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks is now more than 100 years old. Elks in Hawaii began in 1901, with no home at all, when the Lodge address was “Hawaii, TH” for Territory of Hawaii.
On April 15, 1901, Jerome B. Fisher, Grand Exalted Ruler, called a meeting to order for the purpose of installing Honolulu Lodge No. 616. The Lodge met in rented rooms in Progress Hall at the corner of Fort and Beretania Streets in downtown Honolulu. Progress Hall, a lava block structure, still anchors the mauka (mountain) end of Fort Street Mall where it is used by Hawaii Pacific University for offices and classrooms.
In September 1901, the Hawaii Elks announced that the unfinished structure at the corner of Miller and Beretania Streets would be their new home under a long lease. With renovations completed the “antler wearers and the ladies” partied on November 20, 1901. Entertainment was home-grown: a “cello solo by Brother Tobriner”, “Mr. Couzens recited Casey at the Bat,” and “music by Prof. Berger.” That’s Elk member Henry Berger, Bandmaster of the Royal Hawaiian Band. A special meeting – members and candidates only – was held December 17, 1901, with a night of “jinks.” Again, entertainment was provided from within the Elks membership, in keeping with the parent organization’s theatrical background.
For a few months in 1902, the Lodge met in the Knights of Pythias hall, but in August 1902, they returned to their Miller and Beretania streets lodge. On January 4, 1907, the lodge moved again to rented rooms in the Diamond Building.
A site for a permanent home was discussed on and off over the next dozen years with several sites considered. The Lodge actually purchased property at the corner of Hotel and Alakea streets in 1911, but never built on it. The property was sold in 1915.
On January 7, 1919, the Elks 616 purchased property in Waikiki for a lodge. The site had been the location of an early hotel, the Waikiki Inn. Plans were made to build a lodge on the property and architectural plans were drawn up. When the project was estimated at a whopping $200,000.00 (in 1919 Dollars!), the project was dropped. The Prince Kuhio Hotel now occupies the property, previously owned by the Cleghorn family. Just when it seemed the Elks hope for a lodge of their own would ever meet with disappointment, the Lodge received an unexpected opportunity.
Mrs. James B. Castle was impressed by the charitable work being done by the Elks, and in 1920 offered to sell them 155,000 sq. ft. on the beach at Waikiki complete with sumptuous home for $1.00 a square foot. The home was called Kainalu, a lavishly furnished four-story mansion with extensive grounds, an ocean pier, and other amenities. The grand structure was built by James B. Castle in the 1890’s. When Castle died in 1918, his widow found the beachfront property more than she wished to keep up. Sale to the Elks of the property and furnishings was her answer. The purchase was completed on June 4, 1920 and the Elks moved into a new home at the present location, on August 27, 1920.
For decades, the membership and officers worked to raise funds to pay off the mortgage. Every possible method of raising funds was tried. Although a few were spectacular failures, driving the goal further away, most fundraisers were successful. Elks held carnivals, “smokers,” baseball matches, boxing matches, theatricals, auctions, circuses, concerts, and dances. Funds were raised for charity, and a bit set aside to retire the mortgage. Finally – on March 3, 1943, as members sang “Auld Lang Syne,” the mortgage was burned with great ceremony. Finally, Elks 616 owned the property and their own lodge! Relieved of the mortgage and interest payments, the Elks put 100% of their fund raising expertise into their charitable activities.
Several times since 1920 the sale of the Castle property was proposed and even authorized, but motions were defeated or rescinded. Most prominent was a protracted discussion with the Outrigger Canoe Club, which was looking for a new home. Between 1954 and 1956, Outrigger Canoe Club made several offers to purchase about half the Castle property. All were refused. Eventually, in 1955, Lodge 616 approved a resolution to lease property to Outrigger. Negotiations continued, and a lease was signed effective November 17, 1956.
The Castle home, Kainalu, which had served the Lodge so well through World War II, and the post war period, began to show its age. After much debate, with regret, in 1958 the Lodge determined to raze Kainalu and rebuild. After an April gala aloha event, the old Lodge was demolished in June of 1959. Ground breaking for the new building took place on August 17, 1959 and on June 20, 1960, the first meeting was held in a new building, the present lodge building.
Anita Manning, Lodge Historian
Pacific Commercial Advertiser. “Corral for Local Elks.” Sept. 7, 1901, B9; “Elks Open New Hall” Nov. 21, 1901, 6; “Elks open a new club room” Dec. 17, 1901.
Barrett, Hank (Past Exalted Ruler) 1997. The History of Honolulu Elks Lodge 616 (previous web page) BPOE, Honolulu Lodge 616.
Honolulu Lodge 616. 1951. Book of Memories, Fiftieth Anniversary.
Lederer, William. 1926. 616’s 25th Anniversary: Souvenir Program
Marr, Julie. 1959. “Historic Sites Make Way for New.” Honolulu Advertiser. April 13, 1959, B5:4.
Muche, Gene 1976. 75th Anniversary Diamond Jubilee. BPOE, Honolulu Lodge 616.
Paradise of the Pacific. 1919. “Elks to Herd at Quaint Old Waikiki.” 32 (2): 5.