History of Tampa Lodge #708

The time tested success of a Lodge is dependent upon the quality of its leadership, the support of its members and the good it does for the community and the nation. In this regard, Tampa Elks Lodge #708 is an excellent example of a dynamic, charitable organization with a rich history of caring and sharing.

Early History

By 1900, Tampa had grown to a population of nearly 16,000, due mostly to the railroad, tourism, the cigar industry and the military. The leaders of the community, many of whom were to become members of the B.P.O.E., were positioned for growth and expansion.
The organizational meeting, which was held in the Hampton Building at Franklin and Polk Streets, was headed by Abe Maas, who shortly thereafter was elected as the first Exalted Ruler. Mr. Maas went on to form the Maas Brothers chain of stores. On January 22, 1902, a delegation of 14 from Jacksonville conducted the initiation ceremonies that started that afternoon and lasted until the next morning. Tampa was one of 81 new lodges instituted by the B.P.O.E. in 1902. The Charter, dated August 14, 1902, was issued at the ensuing Grand Lodge Convention.

The Masonic Lodge #25 at Franklin and Whiting was used as the first temporary home and when it was sold, Lodge #708 was temporarily relocated to the Giddens Building at Franklin and Kennedy. In November, 1904, Tampa hosted the organizational meeting of the Florida Elks Association attended by 6 of the 9 existing Florida Lodges. Attorney M. B. Macfarlane of Tampa was elected as the first FEA President.

By 1907, Tampa had become the largest Elks Lodge in Florida with a membership of 441 and in 1906 purchased the residence of Charter Member Dr. H. H. Stebbins at Florida and Madison as the first permanent home of Lodge #708. By 1914 the population of Tampa had reached about 44,000, and likewise, Lodge membership grew rapidly. The expanded Stebbins building was replaced by a new facility on the same site, which served as the downtown men’s club for its members. The construction and financing committee was lead by D. B. McKay, PER and Mayor of Tampa. During construction, the Lodge met on the top floor of the Hillsboro Hotel. When completed, it was considered one of the foremost lodges in the country. Its four floors included offices, a library, visiting rooms, several private rooms, a Club Room with billiards and bowling alleys, a Ballroom, and a beautiful Lodge Room. The roof garden was frequently used for social functions. Charity has always been a top priority of the Tampa Elks dating back to the original Tampa Children’s Home. When the Home was completely destroyed by fire, the Tampa Elks built and financed a new facility on a valuable tract of land donated by fellow Elk, Col. H. C. Macfarlane.

In 1917 the U.S.A. was engaged in World War I and a total of 56 members from Lodge #708 served during the war. The Lodge supported the war effort and lent support to the Grand Lodge project of constructing and financing The Boston Reconstruction Hospital at the conclusion of the war in 1918. This facility served as the model for the first U. S. Veterans Administration Hospital. During the war, Elks nationally financed the Salvation Army overseas services.

Tampa continued to grow through major projects such as the Gandy Bridge, erected in 1924, and the Lodge continued to expand and prosper during the 1920’s. Local charities included raising funds to build the Salvation Army Citadel and donations were made to the Grand Lodge for construction of the Veterans War Memorial and Chicago Headquarters Facility in 1926, and establishment of the Elks National Foundation in 1928.

In 1933 the Lodge began its involvement with the University of Tampa through donations to its Endowment Fund, Scholarships and Athletic Programs. The Lodge contributed to the Florida Elks Children’s Hospital (then called the Harry-Anna Crippled Children’s Home and Hospital) and Tampa PER J. L. Reed, Sr. persuaded Harry and Anna Miller to donate valuable land and a hotel to the F.S.E.A. Tampa continued to expand in this decade with many projects being completed, such as the Courtney Campbell Bridge in 1934 and the opening of MacDill AFB in 1939. During World War II, the Lodge operated continuously as one of the most active fraternal centers for members of the Armed Services. The downtown Lodge conducted dances and a weekly Open House on Saturdays, furnishing entertainment, food and refreshments free of charge for service men and women stationed nearby, as was the custom of all Elks Lodges nationwide at this time.

In 1944, a gala Mortgage Burning celebration packed all four floors of the Lodge to capacity. In the 1950‘s, during the Korean Conflict and Vietnam Wars, Tampa joined other lodges nationally in obtaining over one million pints of blood to aid our troops. During this time, a Children’s Christmas Party was started for migrant workers in the area. Buses from MacDill AFB shuttled the children to the Lodge and back to their homes, and for years more than 500 children attended annually. In 1952, Lodge #708 held a Gala 50th Anniversary Golden Jubilee Celebration for its 1,713 members.

By the early 1960’s, the growth of the community was to the suburbs, and the Lodge was in need of many repairs, so the decision was made to sell the building and move to a new location. In 1960, the Lodge was relocated to 5013 Bayshore Boulevard overlooking Tampa Bay and the old building was demolished in March 1962. The new residence, originally the very elaborate Crystal Ballroom, featured a balcony that seated 150, a ballroom with a 66 foot ceiling, and plenty of space for offices, meeting rooms, and social events.

Recent History – 1980 to Present

By 1980, the Lodge at the Ballroom had become difficult to operate and was in need of major repairs, so the building was sold and eventually replaced by condominiums. The Lodge temporarily met at the American Legion Post #139 on S. Dale Mabry and then, in 1982, the Lodge moved to 3616 Gandy Blvd. Renovations and repairs were completed, some other land owned by the Lodge was sold, and the property, previously a furniture store, was purchased debt free. A formal dedication was held on November 28, with Exalted Ruler Hugh H. Hamilton, PVP, presiding.

With this move came a sizable increase in membership to the extent that the Lodge received First Place honors for both Net Membership Gain and Percentage Gain at the Grand Lodge Convention in 1983. Likewise, social quarter business increased significantly, often resulting in a waiting list for dinner on weekends. A Second Place National Award was received in 1996 for Net Membership Gain.

Charity continued as a top priority and the net proceeds from the Lodge Fund Raising activities and state authorized open-to-the-public Bingo program were donated to several charitable causes annually. These programs included Night at the Greyhound Dog Track, concession stands at the Tampa Stadium, Tampa Ice Palace, MacDill AFB Airfest and St. Petersburg Grand Prix Auto Race. In 1987, professional wrestler Hulk Hogan of Tampa donated one of his cars to #708 for a raffle through his father, a member of the Lodge.

From its inception in North Tampa in 1972, the James A. Haley Veterans Administration Hospital, has been provided quality activities and services at the hospital, the Lodge, and at off premises locations through the Lodge 708 Veterans Committee and E.N.V.S.C staff members. This hospital for our cherished veterans flourished under the leadership of PER Charles A. Fiveash with the continuous help of his wife Merle and PER Richard W. Ramsey and later, Pat Fennell and Frank Sellers, PER. Its continual growth has included the opening of its Nursing Home in 1984 and more recently, the opening of the Baldomero Lopez Nursing Home in Land O’ Lakes.

In September 1996, PER Steve Harmon founded our Partners In Progress investment fund. The Drug Awareness Program was established by the Grand Lodge in 1983. Initially implemented by our Lodge during 1985, it was revamped in 1998 with a major expansion of youth related activities lead by Larry Quire PER, his wife Bonnie and their daughter Linda Reid. It is now recognized as one of the finest programs of its kind in the State of Florida. Similarly, the annual Hoop Shoot and Soccer Shoot-Out programs are also very successful. For years member Frank Shortt, now deceased, conducted a quality Americanism program, culminating in a First Place Award in 1996 for our category at the Grand Lodge Convention.

The Lodge #708 Bulletin, the ELKSIZE, won First Place in 1996 at the Grand Lodge Convention, edited by Paul DeLand. The publication continues to provide timely information to its membership and has been successfully transitioned to the World Wide Web via www.TampaElks.com. Since the late 1980’s, there was an increased emphasis placed on Ritual and starting in 1994, the Lodge won the WCD Ritual Contest 6 times and members have consistently placed well in the All District and All State competitions. There has been notable advancement over the years in the Lodge’s Indoctrination Program resulting in a First Place finish in 2001 within the WCD Competition.

Publicity and promotion has been expanded along with our Community Service involvement. The sponsorship of Police Officer and Fire Fighter of the Year Awards, and Lodge Scholarship Grants on Civic Night, providing free open- to-the-public CPR classes at the Lodge in conjunction with our neighboring Fire Department EMT unit, ringing Salvation Army bells at Christmas time, the long established bloodmobile, Dog Track and ROTC programs, the Clearwater Car Show and Carnival, the MacDill AFB Airfest, National Safe Night, the Ice Palace concessions and the Lodge serving as a polling place for local precinct 111 voters are examples of these endeavors. Frequently recognized publicly has been our long time Annual Youth Fish-A-Rama contest and in 1996, the Tampa Police Department K-9 Unit demonstration at the City of Tampa Ballast Point Park and Pier and the Elks Memorial Day Service with joint participation by members of the Clergy and Officials from the American Legion and Moose organizations. Tampa Lodge #708 was an active fund raising participant in the WCD sponsorship of a cabin at the Florida Elks Youth Camp.

The Hillsborough High School Army Cadet ROTC program dates back 66 years to its establishment in 1935. While no record at the school or Lodge could be located as to how long their partnership with the Lodge has existed, it is quite possible that the length of time may exceed that of our annual program at the Dog Track. For certain, records indicate a continuous program since the 1950s. Each year, Elks make a cash donation to the program and present a plaque to one of the students at the Annual Awards Ceremony held at the school. In turn, the ROTC provides a Color Guard for our Flag Day Ceremonies, Civic Night, and over the years for other Lodge functions upon request. Until his recent retirement, Thomas J. McInnes, LTC, USA, RET., SAT, a member of our Lodge, headed the school’s ROTC program.

Traditional Grand Lodge programs have been consistently observed by the Lodge to include Mothers Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Youth Week, Drug Awareness Red Ribbon Week and National Veterans Month, along with activities generally surrounding most of our National Holiday observances. Additionally, numerous articles concerning the Lodge have been included in the Elks Magazine, the Florida Elks News and The Tampa Tribune.

When North Tampa Lodge #2745 revoked its Charter in October 1995, several of its members demitted to Tampa Lodge #708. In the following year, several awards were earned when the Officers and members made a united effort, with Exalted Ruler Frank J. Palladini and with significant assistance from his wife, Ebba Jean, to achieve a B.P.O.E. “All American Lodge” award. The National awards won were 1st place for Monthly Elksize Newsletter, Americanism Scrapbook and Best State Youth Activities; 2nd place for Community Image and Net Membership Gain; and 3rd place for National Youth Week. The State awards won were 1st place for Monthly Elksize Newsletter, All State Lodge Contest and Community Image; and 2nd place for Net Membership Gain and Youth Activities Program.

On January 10, 1996, PER Frank Palladini initiated Bonnie Quire, Jerrye Fennell and Ann Powers into the Order as Tampa Lodge #708’s first female members. In March 2001, PDDGER Frank Palladini installed Nancy Keesler as the first female Exalted Ruler in the Tampa Elks’s 100-year history.

Founders and Renowned Members

The founding members came from all over the country and abroad. Most were prominent, well known and established businessmen engaged as merchants, cigar manufacturers, contractors, real estate developers, newspaper publishers, doctors, dentists, druggists, undertakers, attorneys and judges. They ranged from age 22 to age 55 with average age being 37. One was a barber and one was Mayor of Tampa, in fact, with few exceptions, between 1900 and 1969 the Mayor of Tampa was a member of the Lodge. Many of these men were members or Directors of the Board of Trade, which became the City Chamber of Commerce. Some were high ranking members of the Democratic and Republican National Parties. All of these characteristics were well established in the foundation of the Lodge and set the precedent for the leaders and members of Tampa #708 for years to come. Some renowned members include:

ABE MAAS – The organizer, first Exalted Ruler and Cardholder #1 of Tampa Lodge #708. He and his brother Isaac established the well-known Maas Brothers Department Store chain and the family continued to be very active in Lodge #708 leadership roles.

EDWIN LAMBRIGHT – Longtime Editorial Director of the Tampa Tribune starting in 1925 and holding that position until his death. He served on numerous commercial, civic and governmental boards for years to include the Board of Trade, Tampa Library and the Memorial Highway committee.

MORRIS WOLF – Along with his brother founded the Wolf Brothers Men's Clothing Store chain. He was affiliated with several enterprises outside his business to include President of the Florida Retail Clothiers Association and a Director of the Tampa Board of Trade.

CURTIS HIXON – Mayor of Tampa elected in 1943 and was in his 4th term and 13th consecutive year when he died in office. In 1944, at the Elks request, he issued a proclamation requiring the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag be given at all public gatherings. That year, Elks led the Pledge in front of the grandstand at all performances at the Florida State Fair.

DALE MABRY – A major highway running north and south in Tampa was named in his honor. Mabry, a World War I hero, was Commander of the huge U.S. Army blimp Roma when it crashed in Norfolk, VA in 1922. He was one of the 34 victims killed.

HOWARD FRANKLAND – The Howard Frankland Bridge connecting Tampa and Pinellas Counties was named in his honor. Moving to Tampa in 1925, he became a very successful, high profile businessman and civic leader. He served as Chamber of Commerce President.

DONALD (D. B.) MCKAY – Born 1868 in Tampa, FL, referred to as “A Grand Old Elk”, he was elected Exalted Ruler in 1926.
A self educated man, he went on to build the Tampa Tribune into one of the leading newspapers in the South. He served as Mayor for a total of 14 years. He actively fuelled Tampa’s development including new sidewalks, streets, sewers, City Hall, Police Station, Public Library & State Fairground buildings, as well as Bayshore Boulevard. He was clearly one of the most popular and influential men in Southwest Florida. The on campus McKay Auditorium at the University of Tampa is named in his honor.

DICK A. GRECO – A native of Tampa, Brother Greco was 50th and 56th Mayor of the City of Tampa. In 1967, at the age of 34, he was elected as Mayor and was the youngest Mayor of a major city in the U.S.A.

PETER O. KNIGHT – The airport at Davis Islands is named in his honor. He donated the site and helped raise a building fund for the Old People’s Home, and was President of the Hillsborough Humane Society for many years. He helped to organize numerous companies including what is now Tampa Electric, where he served as President from 1924-1946.

AL LOPEZ – He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1977. His major league career encompassed 36 of his total of 42 years in professional baseball as a catcher with the Dodgers, Braves, Pirates and Indians, and as Manager of the Cleveland Indians and Chicago White Sox. Brother Lopez died in 2005 at age 97.

Conclusion

Clearly, it can be seen that Tampa Elks Lodge #708 has been blessed by a rich legacy of leadership and members who cared and shared. Today, as much as ever, the principles of Charity, Justice, Brotherly Love and Fidelity guide the Lodge as it continues to serve the membership, the Tampa Bay community and the nation.

Past Exalted Rulers of Tampa Elks Lodge #708

1902 Abe Maas * 1942 A. J. Ferlita 1982 Hugh H. Hamilton
1903 Frank L. Wing 1943 P. J. Harvey 1983 Theodore W. Heider
1904 W. G. Mason 1944 J. Frank Umstot * 1984 James L. Cramer
1905 Harry M. Hunt 1945 L. D. Simmons 1985 Larry R. Dowler
1906 D. Y. Brinker 1946 William Fleming 1986 Theodore W. Heider
1907 K. I. McKay * 1947 George P. Raney, Jr. 1987 Richard L. Schneider
1908 L. T. Baldrick 1948 Charles H. Pent 1988 Robert G. Schindler
1909 George S. Bourne 1949 Henry Claywell 1989 Allen Miller
1910 A. L. Allen 1950 George F. Hickey 1990 R. J. Salter
1911 Ernest Maas, Sr. 1951 Joe Moran, Jr. 1991 William Edwards
1912 Walter Detwiler 1952 A. J. Mitchell 1992 Henry (Hank) Spooner
1913 Charles E. Tufts 1953 Thomas F. Nelson 1993 Gerald (Cajun) Lambert
1914 Charles E. Tufts 1954 J. C. James 1994 Carl L. Williamson
1915 Henry E. Snow 1955 Joe Queipo, Jr. 1995 Frank J. Palladini *
1916 W. A. Joughin 1956 John P. Williams 1996 Steve Harmon
1917 Paul J. Van Pelt 1957 Guy C. Thomas 1997 Brian T. Brantley
1918 J. T. Mahoney 1958 James B. Gibson, III 1998 Melvin Chew
1919 James N. Bryan 1959 Raymond F. Powers 1999 Henry (Hank) Spooner
1920 Martin Caraballo 1960 Stephan P. Kovach 2000 Larry Quire
1921 F. Badger Wilder 1961 A. S. Johnston 2001 Nancy Keesler
1922 John O’Donoghue * 1962 Carl O. Gabbert 2002 Scott Miller
1923 Morris M. Givens 1963 J. C. Faircloth, Jr. 2003 Frank Sellers
1924 Anson M. Squires 1964 G. Richard Christ, Jr. 2004 Sally Heider
1925 Alred S. Metzner 1965 Clifford Main 2005 William Edwards
1926 D. B. McKay 1966 George M. Adams 2006 Steve Harmon
1927 M. Henry Cohen 1967 Leon S. Cazin 2007 William Edwards
1928 James J. Fernandez * 1968 Joseph J. Navarra 2008 Anthony Edwards
1929 Joe L. Reed, Sr. * 1969 Robert E. Elsie 2009 John Wayne
1930 L. B. Sparkman * 1970 Roland L. Trow 2010 A.J. Matthews
1931 W. Marion Hendry 1971 I. S. Minardi 2011 A.J. Matthews
1932 Dan P. Galvin 1972 James N. Beeler 2012 Tracy Horrell
1933 W. Roger Watkins 1973 Richard W. Ramsey 2013 Richard Florance
1934 John W. Pace 1974 Richard L. Howard 2014 Addison Horrell
1935 Walter H. Campbell 1975 Richard L. Howard 2015 Theresa Matthews
1936 Terrell R. Young 1976 Edgar I. Britain 2016 Courtney Weil
1937 Tom O. Watkins 1977 Bill Fields 2017
1938 Ernest Maas, Jr. 1978 Charles A. Fiveash 2018  
1939 G. Frank Bullard 1979 Homer J. Burrell 2019
1940 Charles I. Campbell * 1980 James G. Hobbins 2020
1941 J. C. Huskisson 1981 Victor W. Thomas 2021

* Past State Presidents - M. B. MacFarlane, Tampa's Charter Lecturing Knight, served as the first State President of the Florida Elks Association that was formed in Tampa in 1904. One Hundred years later, PDDGER Frank J. Palladini served as State President during the Florida State Elks Association's Centennial year celebration. Palladini was the tenth State President from Tampa Lodge #708, the largest number of Past State Presidents from any of our Florida Lodges.