Mon Valley’s “original country club”

The Charleroi Elks Club has a storied past, and, contrary to popular belief, it’s still open for business

September 28, 2017
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Scott Beveridge
A detail above the main entrance to the Charleroi Elks Club.
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Scott Beveridge
Jody Bailey, banquet manager at the Charleroi Elks Club, is shown beside one of the ornate fireplaces in the historic building.
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Scott Beveridge
Ray Moluski, president of the Charleroi Elks Club, left, and officer Andy Frank, in its grand meeting hall. 
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The original bar in the Charleroi Elks Club taken in the early 20th century. 
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An old colorized postcard of the Charleroi Elks Club. 
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A photo taken in the banquet hall of the first Charleroi Elks Club banquet Sept. 3, 1934.

The Charleroi Elks Club in its heyday was the country club of the Mon Valley, having hosted grand balls and overnight travelers in its hotel rooms around the second-floor balconies.

The club was built in a lavish style with a stained-glass window, ornate fireplaces and rich wood paneling, all of which added an air of sophistication to the Police Ball and other events.

“The Charleroi Elks Lodge 494 has a long and impressive past,” says club President Ray Moluski.

Former Pennsylvania Gov. John K. Tener of Charleroi was among the members who founded the lodge in 1899, and he went on to become the grand exalted ruler of all of the lodges in the country. Tener, who was governor from 1911-15, also was a founder of the First National Bank of Charleroi and president of the National League of Professional Baseball Clubs.

“The Charleroi Elks remains one of the most beautiful buildings in the Valley,” Moluski says. “The interior of the home has never been changed, and it still has an atmosphere of ultrasophistication.”

But for some reason, there seems to be a belief that the club has either closed or that it’s not open to the public, he says. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” Moluski says.

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The original bar in the Charleroi Elks Club taken in the early 20th century. 

“The architecture and bones of that building are remarkable,” says Debra Keefer, executive director of the Mon Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce in Charleroi.

Keefer says the ornate meeting room on the second floor is impressive: “It’s like going into a royal castle.”

The place survives by hosting banquets for meetings, weddings, showers, wakes and graduation parties, all of which are served by an outside caterer, Moluski says.

It also survives on the backs of hard-working volunteers, he adds.

At one time, the club at 301 Fallowfield Ave. boasted 1,500 members. Today the membership has dwindled to about 125 people.

The younger generation doesn’t seem to be interested in joining clubs, Moluski says.

Macaque in the trees
An old colorized postcard of the Charleroi Elks Club. 

“They have a special challenge,” says Keefer, whose organization frequently has meetings and guest speakers at the Elks. “They’ve just been a pillar in the community as a service club and banquet facility,” she says. “Our archives are filled with photos of events there.”

Scott Beveridge is a North Charleroi native who has lived most of his life in nearby Rostraver Township. He is a general assignments reporter focusing on investigative journalism and writing stories about the mid-Mon Valley. He has a bachelor's degree from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a master's from Duquesne University. Scott spent three weeks in Vietnam in 2004 as a foreign correspondent under an International Center for Journalists fellowship.

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