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Historic part of Portland's African American community looks to rebuild with grant

Billy Webb Elks Lodge in the Albina neighborhood of Portland received a $140,000 grant from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

PORTLAND, Ore. — An African American landmark in the city of Portland's Albina neighborhood just got some financial help from a prestigious grant. 

Billy Webb Elks Lodge received $140,000 from the African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.

A fire destroyed the building in 2021, and leaders are still trying to get everything together. President Louis McLemore said the grant money will go towards hiring an operations manager for the lodge.

"What we are trying to do is set the lodge up so it will be able to take care of itself," McLemore said. 

The building has been in the Albina neighborhood since the 1920s. In the '40s it was used as a shelter to house African Americans during the Vanport flood. It also use to be home to the NAACP.

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McLemore said the lodge is looking for more grant money to help restore the interior of the building, which was destroyed by the fire. The new employee they hire will also help with historic preservation and business needs. He said he wants the lodge to continue to be a central meeting point for the community.

"We try to do a lot of community work and be involved as much as possible — but since our community is slowly fading out, we are trying to rebuild again," McLemore said. 

Billy Webb Elks Lodge is one of 33 organizations to get the grant. The lodge is also on the National Register of Historical Places. 

"I've heard so much history from people who have come through here and told me different things — if I could put it all into a book it would be a great story," McLemore said. 

Restore Oregon established a GoFundMe page for the Billy Webb Elks Lodge that has raised nearly $29,000 so far toward restoring the building's destroyed interior.

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