Junior League of Little Rock
Contemporary photograph of the Junior League of Little Rock Building. Image Credit: Arkansas Historic Preservation
Original architectural drawing of the BPOE Club. Image Credit: UALR Center for Arkansas History and Culture
Backstory and Context
This building was originally constructed to serve as the club for the local chapter of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge 29, then later used by the Little Rock Women’s City Club, and is currently owned by the Little Rock Junior League. The Benevolent Protective Order of Elks (BPOE) is a national fraternal organization dedicated to fellowship in their communities.
The BPOE club was designed and built by prominent local architect Theo Sanders between 1908 and 1912. Sanders designed the structure in keeping with the twentieth-century Renaissance Revival style. The original plans show that the building featured handball courts, a gymnasium, lounge and reading rooms, grille room, kitchen, and a large lodge room.
BPOE owned the club until 1928 when it was sold to the Little Rock Women’s City Club (WCC). WCC sought to improve the lives of women and their community. WCC used the building not only for club activities such as luncheons and meetings, but also rented out space in the building to others. They rented space to organizations such as the Little Rock Council of Girl Scouts and the Catholic Woman’s Exchange, and to individual women who worked downtown for living space.The lodge room was also used as a ballroom to host the Little Rock Cotillion.
By the 1980’s the membership of the club was decreasing and there were fewer tenants renting in the building, so the WCC began to look into selling. In 1984 a sale was attempted, but due to disagreement among club members it was unsuccessful. However, in 2001 the Junior League of Little Rock (JLLR) was able to work out a purchase agreement and began rehabilitating the building.
JLLR was instrumental in the development of numerous local organizations including the Arkansas Arts Center and the Museum of Discovery. The contemporary JLLR is focused on helping the community with an emphasis on health and wellness, and school preparedness. BPOE building is the current home of JLLR and can be rented to host functions such as weddings and organizational events.