This is a developing story.
Most of the historic Elks Lodge building has been torn down, despite the building’s owner saying Monday a decision about the fate of the structure that was home to the first territorial Legislature of Alaska was likely a couple of months away.
David McCasland, owner of the Deckhand Dave’s stall in an adjacent lot as well as the building, did not respond to questions Wednesday about the demolition work occurring at the building at 109 S. Franklin St. On Monday he described activity at the site as preventative maintenance involving “just ripping off the awning that’s about to fall into the street.”
Instead, demolition has been ongoing this week and, as of late Thursday afternoon, only a damaged portion of the first floor was still standing from the building that was originally built in 1908 and renovated during the decades that followed.
A demolition permit has been issued for the location, but not a development permit, according to the City and Borough’s Community Development Department.
McCasland, in a May 12 written statement to the Planning Commission related to proposed changes to avalanche and landslide areas downtown, said he planned to use both the Elks Lodge property and the adjacent lot to build housing.
“On the upper portion of both my properties I plan to build an apartment building to create housing for the downtown area…I’m going to build two levels of parking below the apartments,” he wrote. He concluded his statement, which opposed the proposed changes that would expand hazard zone designations in the area, by declaring ”I will build housing, I will clean up the vacant buildings, that is a promise.”
In addition, McCasland submitted a proposal for a permanent two-story eating area with an outdoor performance space as an upgrade to the Franklin Food Court that debuted in 2019 on the lot featuring his Deckhand Dave’s stall and others during a Historic Resources Advisory Committee meeting in June of 2021.
The adjacent building, long known as Elks Lodge No. 420, was used in 1913 to convene the first territorial Legislature of Alaska. Originally three stories tall, it underwent extensive renovation — including the removal of the top floor and the addition of bowling alleys — by the 1940s. It remained an Elks Lodge until 2006, when it was converted to a restaurant with a ballroom.
It is included in the city’s historic structures database, with a listed “Date of National Register Designation” of June 17, 1994.
Because the building is privately owned “even if it does have a historic designation there’s really not a lot that can be done” to require its preservation, said Zane Jones, chair of the Historic Resources Advisory Committee. But he said the loss of it would be sad.
“It’s an important building for sure,” he said. “It’s where I believe the state’s territorial constitution was signed and essentially where Alaska’s government was started…it’s a treasured building.”