Silence was our companion as we ambled along in downtown Greenville, MS. The streets were all but abandoned, save for a couple of pedestrians that we actually stopped.
“Do you know the history behind this building, what was it used for?”
“Don’t know for sure. I think it had something to do with cotton.”
Wanting to help, they led us to the city’s historical museum which, unfortunately, was closed. After thanking them for the gift of time and neighborliness, we parted ways.
Being a person who asks a lot of questions, and craves valid answers, this once impressive structure kept haunting me. It must have a story.
The story begins in April of 1906. The streets were celebratory, with banners waiving and businesses decked in purple and white as the cornerstone for the Elks Lodge No. 148 was laid. Construction of the two story Neo Classical Style building was completed by February of 1907, boasting a billiard hall, a barber shop, and a full library that housed “rare and expensive oil paintings”.
Our friends were right about that fact that it did have to do with cotton. At some point, Elks Lodge No. 148 became known as the “Old Greenville Cotton Pickers Lodge”.
The Elks left at some point, and the building was reportedly re-purposed several times, including being home to a GM dealership in the 1980’s. Falling into disrepair, concerned groups, most notably the Mississippi Action for Community Education, have taken an interest in trying to secure funding for restoration. Unfortunately, Delta Daily News reported in January of 2019 that a demolition permit had been granted, and that the city was going to apply for a grant from the EPA to demolish the building and clean the asbestos and lead contaminants in the soil onsite.
These photos were taken in September of 2019, which means either the demolition grant is still pending, or, in my perfect world, adequate funding has been raised for restoration to begin. Nevertheless, I am grateful for encountering this extraordinary building and its interesting story!