Thursday, October 23, 2014

Elks National Home

When my grand uncle, Charles Albert Jennings, Sr., registered for the World War II draft, he was 61 years old and listed his place of residence as the Elks National Home, Bedford, Virginia. If his date of birth and the address of his wife, who lived in Roanoke, didn't match other records I'd already collected, I might have passed over this record. Why? Charles had a seemingly prosperous career.

Charles Albert Jennings World War II Draft Registration Card, 1942;
image courtesy of

As a young married man, Charles and his wife, Margaret "Maggie" Susan Pifer were living with her parents at 3rd Avenue, NW in Roanoke. Charles was a bookkeeper at a bakery. Four years later, he was working for, or part-owner of, Maddox & Jennings, which was a confectionary or bakery. He continued working for that establishment until 1926 when he became president and proprietor of Jennings & Pedigo, Inc.

So what was he doing at the Elks National Home in 1942? I never did discover the reason, though I have called the Home to see if they will release his records. Charles died in 1947 and is buried at Fair View Cemetery. In 1942 his wife lived with her son, James Edwin Jennings in Roanoke and later moved to 1702 Rorer Avenue, SW, living there until at least through 1958. She died in 1972 at the age of 81.

I have learned the Elks National Home has an interesting history. The organization purchased the old Hotel Bedford in a bankruptcy sale. It was turned into the National Home, which was established for the indigent and dedicated in 1903. Over 5,000 Elks attended the dedication ceremony from around the country.

The original Hotel Bedford building, which was the first
Elks National Home; photograph courtesy of

The old hotel quickly became inadequate and a new building was erected during 1915-1916. Then U.S. Senator Warren G. Harding attended the dedication ceremony for this new building. The facility really expanded between 1923 and 1938 when three more buildings were added for residents as well as a laundry building and theater.

The new Elks National Home Building circa 1954; photograph courtesy of

On 9 December 1937 a large bronze elk statute was installed in front of the new home. It was a gift from John Schmitt, a member of New York Lodge No. 1. The elk weighs 1,950 pounds.

The Elks National Home decorated for the holidays. You can see the bronze
elk statue. Photograph courtesy of Elks National Home website.

In 1999 the Elks organization began accepting women residents at the National Home.

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