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Black Historic Sites Approved

Recognizing Portland’s African American experience

7/21/2020, 4:38 p.m.
The National Park Service has recognized the historic significance of Portland’s African American experience through a pair of new listings ...
The Billy Webb Elks Lodge’s designation on the National Register of Historic places celebrates not only the history of one of Portland’s most important Black fraternal institutions, but also a building that previously served as a “Colored” YWCA, African American USO center, and Portland branch headquarters of the NAACP. Photo by Intisar Abioto/courtesy Portland Planning & Sustainability

The individual listing of the Billy Webb Elks Lodge stemmed from a request received from Lodge members.

The Billy Webb Elks Lodge designation celebrates not only the history of one of Portland’s most important Black fraternal institutions, but also a building that previously served as a “Colored” YWCA, African American USO center, and Portland branch headquarters of the NAACP.

Built in 1926 at 6 N. Tillamook St. when Portland’s Black population was just over 2,000, the Elks Lodge remains owned, operated, and occupied by the African American fraternal society to this day.

Said Lodge Exalted Ruler Louis McLemore, “The awarding of this historical designation will mean a lot to the Billy Webb Elks Lodge membership for their hard work and efforts to keep the past in mind while looking toward the future of this community and the Lodge.”

The Lodge intends to leverage their recent listing in the National Register of Historic Places to secure additional funding for physical improvements to the building and relief from lost rental income due to the coronavirus pandemic.

"It’s great to see the National Park Service approve the long-deserved historic designation of the iconic Billy Webb Elks Lodge,” Mayor Ted Wheeler said of the decision to list the Lodge in the National Register. “The honoring of Black history by our public institutions is long overdue.”