The weekend leveling of the iconic Elks building in Findlay is the kind of development that has sparked cries of “foul” from preservationists in other places.
But the picturesque building, a fixture in the downtown for nearly 100 years, appeared to come down with minimal public outcry.
That quiet demise of a place where presidents and other VIPs had been photographed over the years, and where gambling machines once helped pay the bills, may have been because the site will be transformed into the expanded home offices of Marathon Petroleum Corp. and MPLX LP, its pipeline subsidiary.
The building also had long been too costly for the Elks to maintain.
By the time its declining membership voted overwhelmingly to put their clubhouse up for sale, it was costing $6,000 a month for utilities, insurance and taxes. And the building, while still striking from the outside, needed many costly repairs.
In buying the building for a reported $1 million, Marathon was able to keep its subsidiary nearby, but also provided the Elks club the opportunity to relocate to the Northridge Club on Melrose Avenue. The sale was a win-win for Marathon and the Elks.
Still, the demolition is another reminder that our downtown is being constantly reshaped.
Fortunately, both public and private developers have stepped up to preserve some of our landmarks in recent years, and the community is truly blessed with a vibrant downtown.
The Hancock County Courthouse, of course, is the best example. While it has not been without considerable cost to taxpayers, repairs and renovations have made it the envy of counties that have failed to do the same.
Another building, Central Auditorium, will also survive for future generations with the private investment of Marathon and many others. While the auditorium is the only part of Central School to remain, it will be the heart of the Marathon Performing Arts Center.
There are other examples, too. The Gathering, Alexandria’s, and the Rawson Building loft apartments all help Findlay preserve its past.
Unfortunately, the cost to save a building built in the 1800s or early 1900s can be beyond most developers.
And some buildings just can’t be rehabilitated. The row of buildings along Main Street just north of the bridge were crumbling by the time they were knocked down. The Argyle Building was claimed by fire, and others have simply been neglected to the point there was only one option.
Lodge 75 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks had been built in 1915 at a cost of $150,000, and proved to be an important part of the city’s history.
Now that the Elks building is gone, it’s more important than ever to look around to see what buildings may be worth saving.
Nothing lasts forever, including a building. But we hope efforts continue to make the ones with historical significance last as long as possible.
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