Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, May 23, 2019

The Grandeur of the Elks National Memorial

Built after the Great War to honor the 70,000 members of the association who had served in the struggle, the utterly magnificent Elks Memorial in Chicago is today little visited. It is reported that it receives about ten visitors a day. I once spent a day at nearby Lincoln Park and probably walked right past the building, oblivious to its importance and quality. I hope to make amends someday and get back to Chicago and visit the building. You'll see from the details and images below that the finest architects and artists in American contributed to its construction.  

1.  Elks National War Memorial,  Chicago, Illinois

Some details from the Elks website:

A monument in the truest sense, the Elks National Memorial was built in 1926 to honor Americans whose profound sacrifices for the nation can never be recognized by mere words. With its massive dome, heroic sculptures, and intricately detailed friezes, the memorial is a distinctively American interpretation of classical greatness.

Following World War I, there was a strong desire throughout the Elks organization to erect a fitting memorial to those brothers who had laid down their lives in the name of loyal patriotism and devotion to country which they had assumed at their fraternal altars. At the Grand Lodge session convened in Chicago in 1920, a special committee was created and assigned with the task of planning the design and construction of this new memorial. The commission invited seven of the country's most distinguished architects to participate in a competition that would determine the design of the new building.

After careful consideration, the commission unanimously decided on a design created by New York architect Egerton Swarthout. Swarthout's design was selected over the competition because it was the most beautifully distinctive, while still fulfilling its practical purpose as both a memorial to fallen Elks and a national headquarters for the organization. After an exhaustive search for the most qualified builder, the commission entrusted New York's Hegeman-Harris Company with the task of building a monument that would inspire Elks and captivate the public.

Some images from the memorial: (Click on them to enlarge.)

2.  View Inside the Entrance

3.  Partial View of the Balcony Murals

4. "The Armistice" by Eugene Francis Savage

5.  "Fidelity" (A Cardinal Virtue of the Elks), by James Earle Fraser

6. View from Ground Level of the Dome and Colonnade

7.  "Theirs Is the Kingdom of Heaven" (L) and 
"They Shall Be Called Children of God"(R )
 by Eugene Francis Savage

8.  Grand Reception Hall


  1. I also walked nearby and didn't know it was there. Would loved to have visited it.

  2. I think I need to put a tour of this on my bucket list.