Places that Matter

Elks Plaza

Martha Cooper
Martha Cooper
Home of the Improved Benevolent and Protective Order of the Elks
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Elks Plaza is a long-standing site of gathering and communal life in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Built in the early 1910s, it was later home to the Black Elks fraternal organization and now serves as a rental hall used by a wide variety of community members.

Originally a single-family home, the current Elks Plaza building was expanded several times in the 1910s and 20s to create the current four-story masonry building. In the 1940s, it became the Brooklyn home of the Black Elks, the African American branch of the Elks fraternal organization (the original Elks, founded in 1868, did not admit Blacks until 1973). As Brooklyn Lodge No. 32 (the name still visible today on the building’s exterior) it grew to serve over 1,000 members and for many years was one of the few non-denominational sites in the area where blacks could congregate.

After the Lodge closed Ray Patterson purchased the building in 1991 to serve as a public rental hall. He made needed repairs to the structure, which presently houses large spaces for public events on the first and second floors, office space and a computer room on the third floor, and rooms for private parties on the top floor. Renamed the Elks Plaza in tribute to its earlier incarnation, the building is now available for parties and celebrations by members of Bedford-Stuyvesant's many ethnic groups including Trinidadians, Barbadians, African Americans, as well as recent immigrants from African countries such as Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Mr. Patterson also provides free space for two churches to hold services in the building. And, the Eastern Stars--the original Ladies Auxiliary chapter of the Black Elks--continue to meet there.

This current use of the building carries on a long tradition of providing the Bedford-Stuyvesant community with an accessible gathering space. As Mr. Patterson puts it, "I just bought the building to save it for the community. I didn't buy it to make a livelihood."


Patterson, Ray. Interviewed by Elena Martinez for Place Matters. August 7, 2002.