The Billy Webb Elks Lodge, a modest, shingle-sided building located at 6 North Tillamook Street in Portland, is a reminder of the city's largely segregated history and is a key historical landmark for the African American community.
In 1942, the YWCA allowed the building to be used by the United Service Organizations (USO) as a music and recreation site for minority soldiers in Portland. It was returned to YWCA use in 1947.
Following the Vanport flood in 1948, which wiped out housing for many African Americans who came to Portland during the war, the building served as a Red Cross emergency center and clearinghouse where relatives separated by the flood could be reunited with their families.
During the 1950s, in addition to housing YWCA activities, many groups used the building for meetings, including the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Oregon Association of Colored Women, the Urban League, and the Congress of Racial Equality.
A major renovation of the Billy Webb Elks Lodge was undertaken in 2008-2009 with the assistance of the National Association of Minority Contractors of Oregon.
Much of the building was restored close to its original appearance, a new roof and mechanical systems were installed, and a ramp system was added to allow access by persons with disabilities. The building continues to serve as an Elks lodge.
A decade after $2 million in renovations breathed new life into the Billy Webb Elks Lodge, members are working to designate the headquarters of Portland’s only remaining African American Fraternal Organization as a historic landmark.
The costs are estimated to be $100,000 a year to keep the lodge at 6 N. Tillamook St. off Williams Avenue open and operational. Members of the lodge are optimistic that grant money available to historic landmarks at the local, state and federal level would offset the financial burden to the lodge.
The Billy Webb Elks Lodge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in July 2020.
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