Status: Lost Forever
1/2010: The BPO Elks Lodge 128/Charms Building was demolished between December 28, 2009, and January 1, 2010. According to local newspaper The Coaster, “City officials had deemed the almost 100-year-old building in danger of collapse and ordered it demolished because it was considered a safety hazard.” Despite indications in June 2009 that redevelopers Madison Marquette had made progress in their efforts to exercise their contractual option to buy the building from master developer Asbury Partners, the building was held by Asbury Partners’ successor, iStar Financial Corporation, at the time of demolition. Asbury Partners owed $70 million in loans to financier iStar at the time of the latter company’s take-over of Asbury Partners in December 2009.
The Benevolent and Protective Order (BPO) of the Elks Lodge 128, also known as The Charms Building, was built in 1914. Situated on the edge of Asbury Park’s central business district, its location is especially important as a potentially ideal transitional link between nearby revitalized historic downtown buildings and the new construction proposed for the now-vacant Waterfront Redevelopment area.
BPO Elks Lodge 128/ Charms Building has been a celebrated element of Asbury Park since its opening. Throughout its 26-year run as an Elks Lodge, it played host to Asbury Park’s leading residents. And while the club’s elite members enjoyed the lodge’s amenities, which included four bowling alleys, a gymnasium, and restaurants, the building also served as home base for the members’ many benevolent activities. The Elks were well-known for helping children with special needs, and during the 1920s, a clinic for such patients was opened in the building. In 1924, the building doubled in size when an addition, which lengthened the front and rear facades from their original three bays to six, was appended to the side of the building, a testament to the success of their activities. Elks Lodge 128 was a hub of community activity until 1940 when it was sold to the Charms Candy Company, which used the building to house a packing plant and offices until the 1970s. The building then passed through various owners and uses until being most recently vacated in 1996.
Endangered Elks lodge in Asbury park, one of few remaining historic buildings on the eastern end of Cookman Avenue, architecturally, BPO Elks Lodge 128 is remarkable. Four stories with a flat roof, the building is a splendid example of the Classical Revival style with Beaux Arts detail. It features prominent arched and Palladian windows, cast iron balustrades and balconettes, a principal center balcony on the front façade with low relief floral carving and supporting brackets, a bold cornice, corner pilasters, and unwavering overall symmetry. The building is a quintessential example of the best of Asbury Park’s historic commercial architecture.
The BPO Elks Lodge 128/ Charms Building is today owned by Asbury Partners, LLC, the master redeveloper of the Asbury Park waterfront. According to the Waterfront Redevelopment Agreement of 2002, the “Master Developer will attempt to integrate the rehabilitation of the Elks/Charms property along with the new building construction planned for the block by a Subsequent Developer.” Madison Marquette, another area developer, currently holds an option to purchase the building but has not yet done so, and while Madison Marquette has previously stated that they intend to rehabilitate the building, no formal plans have been produced. Furthermore, per the Waterfront Redevelopment Agreement, rehabilitation of the Elks Lodge can only occur as part of a comprehensive plan to redevelop the entire block on which it is located.
Meanwhile, further deterioration is occurring. The building’s 13-year vacancy has taken its toll. A large portion of the cornice is missing, and exterior finish materials, including stucco fashioned to look like brick, are cracking and falling off. While the building is largely boarded up, broken windows remain exposed to the elements.
Preservation New Jersey encourages prompt work towards a solution that again makes this building a vibrant part of Asbury Park’s waterfront. Asbury Partners, LLC and Madison Marquette are urged to work with local interested groups, such as the Asbury Park Historical Society, to bring about swift action towards the rehabilitation and preservation of the BPO Elks Lodge 128/ Charms Building, before deterioration claims any more of this community landmark’s character. The BPO Elks Lodge 128/ Charms Building is a powerful symbol of Asbury Park’s rich historical past and has the potential to serve as one of the city’s and the Jersey Shore’s prime present-day celebrated destinations.
Johna Karpinski, President, Asbury Park Historical Society