Fire destroyed most of the Glendale Elks Lodge on Sunday, effectively resolving a debate over whether the landmark building, which opened in 1917, should be torn down or preserved.
More than 60 Glendale and Burbank firefighters battled the blaze at 120 E. Colorado St. for 90 minutes before bringing it under control, Glendale Battalion Chief Thomas Brittan said. Authorities estimated the damage at $3 million. Three firefighters suffered minor injuries.
The fire's cause was under investigation.
The flames apparently originated near the center of the three-story building's main floor, Brittan said, adding that flames were higher than the roof when firefighters arrived at 5:45 a.m.
Paul Wright, the lodge exalted ruler, said the fire apparently resolves a dispute over what to do with the building. Some members, he said, favored selling the property and building a smaller clubhouse. But others have been so sentimentally attached to the building that they have resisted its sale, he added.
He felt the lodge no longer needed the large building because its membership has declined from 1,900 in the 1940s to 740 now, Wright said.
"The building was old and the upkeep was hard," he said.
A proposal to sell the property to developers for $2.5 million fell through last year, he said, because of difficulties in obtaining another site for a clubhouse and because of restrictions on demolition of the building, which is on a city list of historic sites.
After surveying the damage Sunday morning, Wright said the demolition issue seems resolved.
"I don't need a demolition permit now, do I?" he asked.
The Glendale Historic Preservation Commission had recently recommended that the property be removed from the city's list of historic sites.
Vonnie Rossman, chairman of the commission, said the Glendale Historical Society and others argued before the commission that the building should be saved because of its age and classic architecture. But, she said, the building needed new wiring, plumbing and other improvements costing more than $1 million and renovation would have been a hardship on the Elks.
Dan Molinari, acting lodge manager, said the building was a popular site for weddings, parties and other social activities.
"We have events booked to April," he said.