The yellow aluminum siding on the nondescript building at the corner of Beekman and Oak streets hides a century and a half of history.
The Frederick Allen Lodge and the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation want to rip off the metal and restore the 1845 building.
“What we’re trying to do is bring it back,” said Ellen Riley, who manages the New York Main Street Grants on Beekman Street for the Preservation Foundation.
The building, home of the local branch of the Black Elks since the 1960s, was once an Italian restaurant. It was one of four on that intersection when Italian immigrants and their descendants populated the Dublin neighborhood.
A 1934 photo of the Fusco eatery shows the building had an upstairs balcony similar to the ones that stretch across the second story on the Mimosa building and Gotchya’s Trattoria on the same corner.
Wide windows stretched across the front and side of the building in the photo, rather than the smaller replacement windows that dot the structure’s first floor now.
The balcony was removed when an accidental fire in the late 1960s damaged it, said Joseph Moore, the lodge’s exalted ruler.
The Elks hold meetings and socialize at the hall, and open it up to the public for fried chicken dinners on the second and fourth Fridays of every month.
Children take popular ceramics classes there some Saturday mornings as part of a grant from the Saratoga County Arts Council, Moore said. They’ll continue to do so after the estimated $200,000 restoration is concluded in about two years, he said.
The restoration will re-create the balcony and windows, install wood siding on the outside and shore up a sinking foundation.
So far, the lodge kitchen has been repaired with new walls and insulation, and a new roof was installed.
“From there, we’ve just been making strides,” Moore said.
The area is still very much a construction site, with exposed joists upstairs and in the kitchen, and yellow insulation exposed between wall studs.
“It was in bad shape,” Riley said of the upstairs, which was gutted during a volunteer work day in June.
“Everybody had masks on and they were pulling boards out,” Riley said.
The lodge used to hold meetings in one of the upstairs rooms, but can’t do so again until the upstairs is brought up to code.
Originally, the restaurant owners all lived above their businesses, she said.
The Elks moved into the building in the mid-1960s from their former home on Congress Street. The Black Elks branch existed in Saratoga Springs from 1925.
The Frederick Allen Lodge restoration is one of seven projects the Preservation Foundation is sponsoring on Beekman Street, Riley said.
She predicts passers-by will notice major changes on the street by the end of this spring.
The foundation has given the lodge a matching New York Main Street grant up to $50,000, and the lodge has raised about $25,000 toward that goal so far, she said.
The city also gave the lodge $32,000 in federal Community Development Block Grant money last year.
Two barbecue dinners in 2006 and 2007 also helped to raise funds.
“Now we’re at the point where we’re just trying to find new ways to come up with materials to fill some of our other necessities,” Moore said.
About two years ago, the lodge and the Preservation Foundation started working together. Joanne Yepsen, county supervisor for the city, also has been involved in the planning.
“This has clearly been a volunteer effort,” she said.
Michael Berlanger is the project’s volunteer contractor, and he and other volunteers have saved the lodge at least $70,000 in labor costs, Moore said.
Berlanger can’t do the foundation work himself, and that is likely to be the most expensive, about $47,000, he said.
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