Elks Seeking History of Stained-Glass Windows, Hoping to Remove, Sell to the Highest Bidders
If you’ve ever stepped inside the Noblesville Elks Lodge, you might have noticed the very beautiful, old stained glass windows along the south wall of the dining room.
Lodge members have recently been working on a plan to remodel the lodge, and during their remodel they expect to remove these windows. And possibly sell the windows as a fundraiser for the Lodge.
But first, they’re asking the community to share any known history of the windows.
Where did these beautiful windows come from?
Lodge member Terri Sigman-Kennedy contacted this journalist at The Times to help the Elks Lodge find out more about the windows.
“We’re hoping someone knows the story behind the windows and where they came from,” she said.
“It’s an interest point, I would think, for Noblesville because of the historical value,” Sigman-Kennedy said. “I’m guessing somebody remembers those windows. And somebody knows where they came from. We don’t know if they’re a hundred years old.”
After putting the word out, they heard from Old Town resident Sandy Stewart, a 1964 graduate of Noblesville High School, who offered some insight.
“Sandy said there was a church down here on Clinton and 10th (streets), and she thinks that might be where these (windows) might have come from,” said 40-year Lodge member Sonny Ott, 74, Noblesville, a two-time Lodge exalted ruler and a 1967 NHS grad.
Both Sigman-Kennedy and Ott sat down with me to talk about the Lodge’s stained-glass windows. They’re hoping to find out not only where the windows came from but also the year that the Lodge acquired the windows.
“That’s what we’re trying to figure out,” Ott said.
“What year was this wall put up? … And where did the glass come from? To what value is the glass to us to try to recoup some of our money to do this renovation?”
Being that Hamilton County historian David Heighway always knows so much about history here in Noblesville, I asked him about the windows, to which he replied that Stewart had also inquired with him.
He said, “Sandy is doing some extrapolating. I can’t commit to any connections. I suspect that people will have some first-person accounts after your article comes out.”
Heighway pulled some information for Stewart, admitting he didn’t have much on this subject. “Sandy asked me about it, and I was able to give her a little info. However, nothing is definite,” he said.
“The First Methodist church was at 10th and Clinton until 1963 and was demolished in 1964.” (He sent an 1896 photo of the church) “Some people saved windows from the old building,” he said, quoting Ledger articles from July 17, 1964, and Dec. 23, 1964. The Golden Nugget opened at the Elks address, 35 S. 9th in 1966. The windows under discussion had been installed in the building by 1974, Heighway said, attaching a Dec. 7, 1974, Ledger article.
Heighway also quoted the 1965 Noblesville City directory. Hamilton Catering, a liquor retailer, was in 35 S. 9th and (Max) Powell’s Barber shop was in 37 S. 9th St. Denzel Hufford’s husband Marvin had run Hamilton Catering in 1962-63. It had been started by the Powells and then sold to other people.
In October 1995, this journalist contributed to a young reporter’s newspaper article in The Noblesville Ledger, a story about the Elks’ plan to buy and renovate the former Max D’s bar, which the Lodge bought from Elks member Max Donald Powell at 35 S. Ninth St. (Max D’s is where country music singer and songwriter Steve Wariner, a Noblesville native, performed three times (including his first time, for $250) and his third time, a standing-room-only show that I attended and covered when I first started working at The Ledger, on June 17, 1989, a fundraiser for accident victim Jimette Houserman of Sheridan.)
The Elks would buy the building for $140,000 on a three-year contract, written by the late John M. Kyle, senior partner with Campbell Kyle Proffitt attorneys-at-law. Then, an estimated $10,000 to $30,000 would be spent renovating. Before the sale, the Elks had been meeting twice a month at Lutz’s Steak House in Noblesville after the former Elks Lodge at 8001 E. 196th St., was sold due to a high mortgage and a decline in membership, according to Geoff Robinson, exalted ruler at the time. The Lodge is a nonprofit that started in 1871 in New York City. Noblesville Lodge, the only Elks Lodge in Hamilton County, originated on July 26, 1900, in a downtown building east of 10th and Conner Streets, now a parking lot adjacent to Noblesville City Hall, according to The Ledger article. In 1972, the Elks moved from the downtown location to its previous lodge on East 196th Street.
Ott and Sigman-Kennedy are thinking they might want to sell the windows in a silent auction to raise money for the Lodge’s 2023 renovation, which begins in March.
Removing the windows and the barn siding wood panels gives the dining room a few more inches of space. “It’ll bring about a foot,” Ott said. Behind the wood panels is brick and padding, insulation. They plan to re-insulate and install new windows.
“We’re really not just working on the inside of our building, but we’re going to work on the outside eventually. We want to repaint it …. We’re working with the City (of Noblesville) on a facade grant. We know those (windows) mean something to somebody,” Sigman-Kennedy said.
While they’re seeking the history, they’re also seeking a new home for the windows. “There might be a church in the area that is being constructed that says, ‘We need stained-glass windows.’ Wouldn’t it be cool to have historic Noblesville windows?”
While changing out the stained-glass windows could mean that the new view would be The Levinson parking garage and apartments, Ott said they’ll actually replace the stained-glass windows with frosted glass.
“It’ll be tinted windows, so you can’t see in but we can see out,” Sigman-Kennedy said.
And they love the idea of having exposed brick once the wood panels are removed inside the dining room.
The Lodge expects to spend about $70,000 remodeling the building not including the exterior facade, but it does include taking the wall down, replacing windows, remodeling two bathrooms, repainting the interior, and moving the bar out about a foot into the room to allow more space behind the bar for the bartenders. “There’s just no room back there for two people to get behind the bar,” Ott said.
Jerry Wides, Lodge trustee, a Noblesville resident of 40 years and a Lodge member for 15 years, and Steve Vallier, a Noblesville resident of 26 years and a Lodge member of eight years, are among the nine members of the Lodge renovation committee, of which Ott is the chairman and Sigman-Kennedy is a member.
When I met with the committee, the Lodge was getting ready to hire a contractor after looking at the bids. They hoped to vote within a month and start work in March.
Elks membership is by invitation only. In 1995, when the Elks bought the Ninth Street building, membership had dwindled to 250. Today, the Lodge has about 550 members, with 25 more new members to be initiated on Saturday before a chili cook-off.
“All of the members would not fit in our building right now,” Sigman-Kennedy said.
The Elks’ largest event is the annual charity golf outing which draws about 120 people into the building after the outing. “It’ll be full up here and down,” Ott said. Plus, the Lodge has parties that draw at least 70 members for every gathering. At Christmastime, members participate at the holiday parties with their kids and grandkids, doing crafts and enjoying a meal, and they use all three levels, from the basement to the upstairs. In mid-January, the Lodge had a Texas Hold ‘Em tournament for Elks members. There are always activities going on at the Elks Lodge No. 576 on South Ninth Street, just west of Conner Street off of the Courthouse Square. And there is at least one drawing every week, with present members eligible to win.
“When (her late husband) John (Kennedy) was an exalted ruler, this place was so crowded that we would have all of the food for the reception downstairs and tables upstairs and Lodge hall was set up for installation of officers … We need the space.”
She said, “A lot of our membership that’s joining right now is a lot younger. So we’re trying to incorporate a lot of family things.” Events this year also include Easter egg events and a pancake breakfast.
When the Lodge went from a smoking venue to a non-smoking venue a few years ago, Sigman-Kennedy said, “I bet we went from 350 to 500 (members). It absolutely made a huge difference.”
Ott said, “Once everybody knew it, that there was no smoking,” more women joined. “It really opened it up.”
More younger members also means more hands on deck to help out.
“By renovating this (building), which hasn’t been renovated since 1997,” Ott said they intend to attract more folks.
Sigman-Kennedy, 69, Noblesville, a 1972 Noblesville High School graduate, said, “This Club had been here a hundred years when I became the ER (exalted ruler), and I was the first woman who had ever been ER.”
She has been a member for 13 years. “A lot of us with children, our grown children are members now,” Sigman-Kennedy said. “That’s really nice.” Both of her daughters are members. Her grandchildren have been coming to the Lodge since they could walk, to Christmas parties and Easter egg hunts, and Halloween parties.
“We just think by making more room, also, and brightening this place up, more people will start coming in more often,” Ott said.
The Lodge will be spruced up on the exterior, with a new awning that’s “bright and colorful,” … “royal blue and beautiful,” Sigman-Kennedy said. They’re hoping to have a new sign on the corner of the building with a big Elks symbol, “so you know what we are just driving down the street,” she said.
The more that the Elks do in the community, the more that the community will become aware of the Lodge. Like participating in the Noblesville parades and serving a monthly pizza dinner to the Boys & Girls Club of Noblesville. The Elks Lodge also has an annual Hoop Shoot, this year with two of the winners advancing to the district level in February. Two years ago, the Elks had a national champ from Noblesville, Ott said. “We donate a lot to the community,” he said.
Ott’s brothers, Bobby Ott and Jack Ott, are both past exalted rulers. His daughter, Christi Ott, is bar manager. Nephew Gene Ott is a member. “I’ve had a lot of my family get involved,” said Ott, whose dad joined years ago (in the 1960s). “I wanted to join just because I knew a lot of people. And they participated in a lot of activities to give back to the community.”
Sigman-Kennedy became a member because her husband, John Kennedy, was a member, and his father (Jim Kennedy) was a member, a lifetime member.
“It was kind of cool for me when I became an exalted ruler because my father-in-law and my husband were both exalted rulers,” she said. Her brother recently joined the Elks, and her daughters have been members for about five years. Sigman-Kennedy said, “I got to initiate both of them when they became members.”
Participating in the community, she said, “I think that’s what’s helping our membership.”
Ott, who called the Lodge his “second home,” said, “I love everybody here.”
Sigman-Kennedy chimed in, “It’s a good feeling.”
Contact Betsy Reason at [email protected]