Elks Opera House Prescott

Sometimes you just don’t see the forest through the trees. Some friends of ours had asked us to attend a show at the recently renovated Elks Opera House. We saw a show by Lonely Street Productions, Good Rockin’ Live A Salute to Sun Records. Robert Shaw and his band mates Brady Goss and Alex Mack did a great job entertaining the crowd. It was my first time in The Elks Opera House since the renovation was completed in 2016. The venue sparked my curiosity and the next morning I did some research. The original opera house in Prescott was the Drake, it was demolished in 1903. The local Prescott Elks Lodge was looking for a new location and purchased land on East Gurley St.  Builders laid the corner stone on April 3rd 1904, the Grand Opening was in February of 1905 with a performance of Marta of the Lowlands. The Elks was used for many local events including commencement ceremonies for Prescott High School and St Joseph’s Academy. 1916 brought the first movie to the Elks with a Birth of a Nation. In the 1940’s the opera house saw some renovations. The boxes and ornamental decorations were removed to make room for a wide screen for movies. Movies continued showing into the 1970’s.  During this time the Elks lodge moved their meetings to another location and took with them the iconic copper elk “Bill” which had sat majestically atop the opera house. In the 1980’s live performances, like the Patti  Bell show had returned and lasted into the 1990’s. The City of Prescott bought the building in 2001 with the intentions of restoring it. Not until 2012 when the city sold it to The Elks Theater and Performing Arts Center did the restoration begin. Due to many local donations the restoration moved along. The theater boxes and ornamental decorations were fabricated and reinstalled. Many surprises were found during the renovations, like a staircase to the original box seating . Great effort was made to bring the Elks back to her original glory. In December of 2012 the original Copper Elk “Bill” was reinstalled. The interior and exterior renovations were completed in 2016 at a cost of 3.8 million dollars. The Elks is used on a regular basis now with musical performances, theater productions and even old movies. The Elks Opera House is one of Historic Prescott’s jewels and out of all of the opera houses The Elks built through out the country, it is my understanding that the Prescott Elks is the only one remaining. My wife Joni and I are planning many future returns to this iconic landmark!

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