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Historic Black community hub damaged by fire, community responds with donations

The Billy Webb Elks Lodge in North Portland's Albina neighborhood dates back to 1923

PORTLAND, Ore. — A fundraising campaign is underway to help restore the Billy Webb Elks Lodge, which was badly damaged by fire on September 11, 2021.

The lodge in North Portland's Albina neighborhood dates back to 1923. It has served as a variety of community spaces, particularly for Portland's Black community. 

It currently serves as headquarters for Portland’s only remaining African American Fraternal Organization.

In the early morning hours of Sept. 11, neighbors called firefighters about flames on the lodge's outdoor deck. Fire spread to the building and burned up through the roof. 

The lodge and nonprofit Restore Oregon believe trespassers were cooking or had some sort of fire that spread out of control.

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Fire, smoke and water damage now spans from ceiling to basement, putting the rentable venue space out of commission. 

"It's heartbreaking," said Katelyn Van Genderen of Restore Oregon. "Losing it [would mean] we never get that connection back."

Restore Oregon has worked with the lodge for several years to help secure historic status and grants to preserve the building.

"Unfortunately this sets us back about a year," Van Genderen said.

A GoFundMe page is now raising money to help repair the fire damage.

"We plan on coming back full force," said Louis McLemore, who has been with the lodge for a decade. His title is Lodge Exalted Ruler. "We thank the community for any help."

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