Monday, April 19, 2010
In September, 1914, local lodge number 1274 of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks purchased the Charles E. Leonard House on High Street for use as a meeting place. The house had been constructed on a large parcel of land by Leonard (1830-1904), a partner in the Middleborough shoe manufacturing firm of Leonard & Barrows in the 1870s. An exuberant mix of Italianate and Flemish Baroque details, the Leonard House for many years was a showplace in town, noted for its porte-cochère, four-story tower with ocular window and large carriage house connected directly with the main house. The grounds of the estate covered four and a half acres and were among the most beautifully landscaped in town.
Following Leonard's death, the house was inherited by his sons, Charles M. and Arthur H. Leonard. Charles M. Leonard later became the sole owner, and it was he who sold the house to the local Elks in 1914.
The Elks maintained the house for many years, and residents still recall the beautiful architecture of the building's exterior and interior spaces. In time, however, the Elks made changes to the structure and by the 1960s much of the architectural detail, costly to maintain, had been pared down or removed altogether including most noticeably the upper two stories of the tower, but the shutters, porch railings and iron finials on the gables, as well.
Additions were also made to the house in order to accommodate the needs of the growing organization, including the construction of a one story shed-roofed addition on the west side of the structure. In 1970 more space was created when the rear wing of the house and the porte-cochère were demolished to make way for the construction of a 90 by 50 foot wood-frame addition containing a banquet hall, Boy Scout meeting room, kitchen and sauna on the ground floor and a lodge hall on the upper floor.
The mansion was destroyed by fire in 1980. In 1982, the present Elks Lodge was constructed upon the site.