Excerpts from the pen of Howard Griffin Sr.
Since the early 1900s, the Elks Club was a Corn Hill mainstay. Located in a converted house at 285 Clarissa Street, Elks Lodge #91 Flower City Chapter and Eldorado Temple #32 Auxiliary claimed this location as their headquarters (since 1906 and 1907, respectively.) Initially, the Elks Club was organized by African-American Rochesterians after being rejected from membership into the BPOE of W (Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World), which was exclusively white. This newly formed group became known as the IBPOE of W (Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World.) The Elks Club welcomed both blacks and whites alike. Its members came from a wide cross section of the community and represented various occupations and businesses in the Rochester area.
Back “in the day,” the Elks Club was in good company on Clarissa Street, sharing notoriety with the likes of the Pythodd Club, Shep’s, Smitty’s Birdland, LaRue’s, Scotty’s Pool Hall, Scotty’s Drum and Bugle Corps, Ray’s Barber Shop, Vallot’s Tavern and the Lattimore Funeral Home. The Elks Club was the last remaining black-owned business on Clarissa Street, which was historically a mecca for the African American social scene.
The Elks Club is no longer active but was very active in the Corn Hill Community and sponsored many activities throughout the year. There were Christmas parties for area children as well as Easter egg hunts in the spring. They also provided assistance to families who were in need via donations made to neighborhood organizations such as Baden Street Settlement and Montgomery Center. College scholarships were awarded to students who participated in an Elks-sponsored oratory competition held on a local, state and national level. It is with great pride that we salute the Elks Club for their past contributions to the Corn Hill Neighborhood.