In 1968, the Order of Elks was organized in New York which became Lodge No. 1. It quickly followed by Lodge No. 2 in Philadelphia and the number of lodges rapidly increased in various cities until May 2, 1902, BPOE Lodge No. 779 was instituted in Dixon by the Rockford Lodge. The Ottawa Lodge installed the first officers, which included a Lodge Physician, a post abolished the following year. With a record class of one hundred and fifty-one n 1912, which included the absorbed Dixon Club- a private organization- and many post World War I initiations at which time our 1000th member was initiated, the lodge reached its peak in 1928 with a membership roster of 804 members. The Great Depression of the next decade caused a drastic drop in membership to a mere 301. The “climb” started again until more post World War II initiations and a class of 68 for the 50th Anniversary in 1952, helped the membership to reach another peak of 754. The number then began to drop and fell below 600 in 1961. The total stayed slightly below this figure because of delinquents “stricken from the list” and deaths until 1974. That year showed only on delinquent, again passing the 600 mark. It has been booming since for the last three years, closing on the 800 figure and threatening to set a new high in membership.
Originally, a house committee was appointed annually to operate the kitchen, “the cigar case”, and the social activities. In 1918, it was dissolved and its functions were divided into committees. When the bar was installed, it was operated by a separate committee under a subsidiary corporation. The 205 club. Its three officers had full control of the bar business. In 1962, at the Grand Lodge insistence, it became part of the Lodge Corporation. A House Committee was again appointed annually to supervise its operation. At times since then, as it is currently, the House Committee is composed of the Board of Trustees and the chair officers.
The first clubrooms were on the third floor of a wooden building at the northwest corner of First Street and Galena Avenue. In 1903, a motion to purchase the Opera House was defeated and the clubrooms were moved a block east to the building that is occupied by Ambrosia’s Restaurant. Over the next few years, there was much heated discussion as to where to relocate. The East 2nd street site was purchased and the move took place. The lodge rooms were completely rebuilt in 1923 and, at that time, they were reputed to be the most beautiful in the state. After the fire in 1987, there was very little left of the original building when it burned to the ground.
With the organization of the Ladies Auxiliary in 1932, rooms were made available to them on the northern part of the third floor. To make room for a bar and cloakrooms, the library and the reading rooms were torn out.
There has been two fires in the history of the lodge, the first occurring in March of 1974 and the second on September 2nd, 1987. The disastrous fire occurred to the Lodge building on East 2nd Street. Some say it was in the boiler, others say an errant cigarette, or possibly the electrical system. The cause was never known for sure as the standing walls were deemed a hazard and knocked into the burned out hull. Much discussion occurred on where to build the new Lodge building. The Page Park property was high on the list, but it was deemed too far out in the country and that would limit the number of brothers using the facilities. The current site was eventually decided on and was dedicated on New Years Eve in 1989. In 1993 we ran out of room for our ever-expanding membership and the need to have more than one function taking place at one time. The new addition was completed in 1994. A survey was conducted for names of the rooms in the lodge and a vote was taken of these names. We ended up with names of the bar room being the Antler Room and the other two roms being named after the years they were built, 1990 and 1994.