Historically Black elks lodge gets big grant

The Billy Webb Elks Lodge awarded $140,000 from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund will award $140,000 to the Billy Webb Elks Lodge in Albina to help with rebuilding and staffing up.

(Updated with comment from Restore Oregon)

The Billy Webb Elks Lodge in Portland’s Albina neighborhood could be on the mend soon. The historic lodge sustained fire damage in September 2021 when someone camping on the back staircase started a campfire which got out of control and burned the roof.

The African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund (AACHAF), a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, has announced it will award of $140,000 to the organization to help with staffing up.

Restore Oregon said in a press release, “Funding will allow BWEL to hire its first staff member, a part-time executive director/operations manager for two consecutive years. By hiring an E.D. to manage their historic preservation and business needs they will be in a position to steward the BWEL long-term.”

Restore Oregon’s Jeannette Shupp said lodge is still not open. “This grant money is only to hire and pay for an executive director/operations manager to manage the day-to-day restoration and fundraising efforts part time for two years, not for rebuilding.” However, the burn damage is being addressed and construction will begin soon. Shupp said there will be a funding gap for the work as design plans are formalized and work begins, and pointed to a GoFundMe page for the public to support the effort to rebuild.

Exalted Ruler

“A new wave of hatred and prejudice has been sweeping America, and it is important now more than ever to preserve sites that can provide essential services and resources to marginalized communities,” said Louis McLemore, Exalted Ruler of the BWEL. “Though the lodge was borne from segregation, our hope is that it can serve the community in the future as a place of racial harmony and unification.”

PMG PHOTO: JOSEPH GALLIVAN - The Billy Webb Elks Lodge in Portland's Albina neighborhood sustained fire damage in September 2021.

With more than $80 million in funding, the Action Fund is the largest U.S. resource dedicated to the preservation of African American historic places.

Billy Webb Elks Lodge (BWEL) is one of 33 organizations in 2022 to receive a total of $3 million in funding from the Action Fund to protect and preserve sites representing African American history.

The Action Fund has supported 160 places through its National Grant Program for a total investment of $12.4 million. The organization said “This year’s list further demonstrates the beauty and complexity of African American life, and includes historic sites tied to Black arts, culture, civic engagement, entrepreneurship, sports, medicine, education, religion, and social justice. These often-overlooked places hold aspects of history that must be protected — and used to draw inspiration and wisdom for the benefit of all Americans.”

The Billy Webb Elks Lodge on North Williams Avenue in Portland is on the National Register of Historic Places, in recognition of its historical significance for Portland’s Black community.


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