Leslieville Elks are rebuilding only six months after a fire destroyed their historic community hall.
“We’ve had incredible donations and support from the community,” said Dave Clough, lodge secretary.
A February fundraiser collected $60,000 towards the $400,000 replacement hall. Elks lodges from across Alberta also lent their support.
“People were just so gracious,” said Clough. “Our lodge was just overwhelmed with the support and the support just continued to pour in thereafter.”
The hall had stood in the community for about 70 years and was a treasured gathering place and venue for parties and wedding receptions for the hamlet of about 250.
Flames were spotted about 7 p.m. on Dec. 29 by a nearby resident. More than 30 volunteer firefighters fought the blaze in -40 C conditions but the hall could not be saved. Besides the building, the fire destroyed precious memoriabilia and artifacts.
A 17-year-old has been charged with arson and is expected to go on trial in November.
Clough said they hope to get the building started soon and at the stage where at least the main structure is complete by the fall. A development permit has already been approved and an architect is working on the construction drawings and the other necessary permits.
Local contractor Dave Phillips, of Phillips Construction, has already agreed to take on the project. The new lodge will be about 3,200 square feet, which is larger than the 2,300-square-foot original, although that building had a basement and the new lodge won’t.
The new hall will be up to all the current standards. The single washroom that served the old hall will be replaced with modern handicapped-accessible washrooms and the kitchen will also be upgraded.
While the loss of the hall was difficult, what came after was inspiring.
“Out of tragedy usually comes community building. We’ll be stronger for it when all is said and done.”