By Beth Dodd:
On February 9th one of Cripple Creek’s best kept historical buildings, the Gold Mining Stock Exchange Building, was added to the National Register of Historic Places. The occasion was celebrated with an open house and champagne reception.
The three story building at the corner of Bennett and 4th Street has been the home of B.P.O. Elks #316 since 1910. If you are not familiar with the Elks, they are a national organization dedicated to community service and focus especially on helping children, veterans, and seniors. The Cripple Creek group is one of 52 lodges in Colorado.
“We make money to give it away,” said Elks member George Dosher. For example, the Cripple Creek Lodge donated $2,000 to help build the Mountain Health Center at Cresson Elementary School in Cripple Creek. The health center is right on campus and provides health care services to the district’s students and their siblings for little or no charge. The local Elks also offer scholarships to Cripple Creek and Victor High School students.
The effort to get the building added to the National Register was led by Elks member Cookie Ringo and local historian and Elks wife Melissa Trenary. Their goal was to acknowledge the remarkable history of the building while seeking grant funds for future historic preservation work. A grant has already been awarded to B.P.O. Elks #316 for an engineering and architectural assessment of the structure.
Back in 1910 when the Cripple Creek Elks bought the Gold Mining Stock Exchange building, they had already been chartered for 15 years, but had been meeting in rented space on the top floor of the Fairley Bros & Lampman Block, now the Colorado Grande Casino. When the Mining Exchange Building came up for sale, they were able to buy it for $12,500.
The Mining Exchange was quickly built in 1896 following the fires that destroyed much of the city. The red sandstone used to construct it came from the quarry east of Manitou Springs where Red Rocks Park is today. From 1896 until December 1909, when the Cripple Creek Stock Exchange was combined with the Colorado Springs Stock Exchange and moved down to Colorado Springs, nearly every gold mine stock in the district was traded in this building.
The building was also the site of one of the district’s most infamous shootings. In 1901, millionaire mine owner Sam Strong was shot and killed by J. Grant Crumley in the Newport Saloon on the first floor. Crumley was later acquitted after claiming self-defense against a drunken and belligerent Strong. The Newport is now the CC&V Mine Information Center on the Bennett Ave side of the building.
After the Elks bought the building in 1910 they also purchased an empty lot to the west and pushed the western wall out to make the building bigger. The stock exchange offices on the third floor became bedrooms that could be leased from month to month by lodge members. Art Tremayne, the Gold Camp’s oldest resident, still resides in one. The stock exchange on the second floor became the lodge meetings room, while the first floor has always been retail space.
When the building first opened as the Elks Lodge, it was one of the largest and most elegant lodges in the state. A description of the new lodge written in 1911 by W.H. Harris admires details like the oriental rugs, velvet draperies, and polished hardwood floors. The lodge was also equipped with telephones, push buttons to call the porter, wall switches for electric lights and outlets for electric lamps, and wash stands in the rooms with hot and cold running water.
For amusement there was of course a bar, a banquet hall, a room for cards and billiards, a cigar and brandy room, a reading room, exhibits of mineral specimens in glass cases, and even gold fish from the orient. For the ladies, there was a “retiring room” with rocking chairs and divans where they could rest during dances.
Many original historic details still grace the building today. A full body trophy elk mount from 1895 described by Harris as “one of the monarchs of the glen” still greets you in the foyer at the top of the stairs on the second floor. The original hardwood banisters wrap around the third floor staircase and balcony, and the old stock exchange chairs in the lodge room have wire racks under the seats for storing gentleman’s hats.
The lodge meeting room, once the floor of the stock exchange, is the most memorable room in the building. The space is 45 x 58 feet with balcony seats on the west wall, an ornamental high tin ceiling above, and a polished maple floor below. A work of stained glass art from 1910 hangs above the Exalted Ruler’s seat at the top of the room. The heads of trophy elk hunted by the members hang on the walls and look somberly down on the proceedings. The words Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love, and Fidelity at the cardinal points of the room remind the Elks of their mission.