Elks Auditorium Fire…100 Years Ago


The Elks Auditorium, located on the corner of West Fifth and North Liberty Streets, opened in 1903.  The opening event featured a minstrel and comedy show featuring local talent.  The Auditorium attracted a variety of entertainers over the years.


Early in the morning on April 27, 1916, the Neil Hotel,  caught fire.  The Neil Hotel was located on the second floor of Hutchins Drug Store, and was next door to the Elks Auditorium. The hotel and nearby businesses were quickly engulfed in the fire, including the Elks Auditorium and Hutchins Drug Store.  The photo above shows the Elks Auditorium being sprayed with water during the fire.

One man, a resident of the hotel, died in the fire that caused about $90,000 damage.   Other residents lost property and cash in the fire.

The Elks Club was housed on the top floor of the building.  Members were able to remove the most important lodge records, but lost equipment in the fire.  Other businesses that were damaged were the Polites Candy Kitchen, Costas Palace Cafe, and Liberty Billiards Parlor.  The vaudeville troupe that was playing at the Auditorium lost their trappings, as well as their booking.


The photo above shows the damaged buildings on and near the corner of Liberty and West Fifth Streets after the fire.


The photo above shows the buildings on West Fifth Street, between Main and Liberty Streets.  The back and side of the Elks Auditorium are seen in the photo.

The fire was a heavy blow to the city, taking away the best movie and vaudeville house.  The Elks Auditorium was replaced by the Auditorium Theatre, and later the State Theatre.

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The corner is occupied today by a parking deck.  See the then and now images above.

Black & white photos courtesy of Forsyth County Public Library Photograph Collection.

Current image courtesy of Molly Grogan Rawls.

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