Written by George L. Strain 
Member of Lodge B.P.O.E. Elks Lodge #701 
Date: March 3, 2003 

“The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks Lodge #701 was chartered in La Junta on April 21, 1901. Shortly after being instituted, Elks Lodge #701 moved into the second floor of the Dougherty Building. The lodge room and club facilities were constructed leaving the rest of the second floor still with the largest dance floor in the Arkansas Valley.” 

“In 1907 the Dougherty Block was expanded to the North of the 1897 building to what is now the basic structure of the present Elks Lodge. The wall between the buildings is a common wall. In 1925, the Elks had finalized purchase of the entire Dougherty Block.” 

“The Stock Market crashed October 29, 1929; the Great Depression was underway.” 

“As the Elks Order is very civic minded the La Junta Elks Lodge #701 decided to do what it could to help relieve the effects of the Great Depression in the La Junta area and the Arkansas Valley.” 

“In 1931-1932, the lodge began remodeling the South Dougherty building into the Kit Carson Hotel. Local unemployed artisans, carpenters, and workers were utilized as much as possible.” 

“The remodeling included extending the height of the building adding a third story, which together with two thirds of the second floor were made into hotel rooms. The remaining one third of the huge dance hall was retained as a ballroom for the hotel. The entire building was refaced with the light colored brick façade as it still appears today. It indeed is a fine representation of the Deco Period structures of the 1930’s.” 

“The entire Elks lodge room and club facilities were consolidated on the second floor of the 1907 building. The large doorway in the common wall between the buildings was then at the West corner of the new hotel ballroom and the South corner of the Elks lodge room. This enabled the Elks room to be utilized with the hotel ballroom both then and after the Elks remodeled the 1907 building in 1952. This doorway arrangement was used hundreds of times between 1932 until the Kit Carson Hotel closed in the mid 1990’s.” 

“Upon opening of the new hotel, it immediately became the focal point of La Junta and the Arkansas Valley for social, business, and civic actives for more than fifty years.” 

“The ballroom was in use about every day of the week. Almost every civic and community group, Rotary, Lions, Chamber of Commerce, women’s organizations, educational, clubs and social groups had their meetings there. Banquets, formal and informal, dances, gatherings, and exhibits constantly used the room. The hotel hosted many conventions of statewide groups, organizations, fraternal, political, business, educational and exhibitors.” 

“After the Harvey House Hotel and Santa Fe reading room closed the train crews and travelers making train connections used the hotel for several years.” 

“Fifty years ago, in 1951 the Elks remodeled the 1907 Dougherty Building into it’s present home. An extension was built on the rear of the building. The lodge room was enlarged and a lounge, kitchen, and serving facilities were added onto the second floor. The clubroom, office, and reading room facilities were moved to the first floor. A new entrance was made at the center of the remodeled structure. The exterior of the building was refaced and has not been altered from its 1951 appearance.” 

“Over the years, since the Doughtery Buildings were built they have been the locale of many businesses, enterprises, and functions. It has been the “home” of the La Junta Elks for over 100 years.” 

“The first floor housed the Wonderly Theatre from the early 1900’s until the 1940’s. Wiswell Creamery was located at 117 Colorado Avenue from before 1916 to the early 1930’s. Prinster Meat Market was at 119 Colorado Avenue until it became Frank Spicers Grocery Store in about 1920. Spicers moved in the early 1930’s. Other enterprises and establishments in the Douhterly block until the Kit Carson Hotel was built in 1932 include: Sayers Department Store, two different furniture stores, ladies ready to wear store, beauty salons, a barbershop and Duckwell Store were among the many business operating in the Dougherty Block during the first thirty years of the twentieth century.” 

“From 1932 to the mid 1990’s, over sixty years, the Kit Carson Hotel was the focal point of attraction in downtown La Junta. It was a great loss to the community when it closed.” 

“Before 1932 among the last functions held in the big dance hall were wrestling matches sponsored by Elks Lodge #701. La Junta native, Everett Marshall, was the main attraction. Everett soon became the World Champion Wrestler. Wrestling then was a popular two man sport second only to boxing. The spectacle today of the so-called wrestling is far different. As a young boy, the writer recalls the excitement of attending these matches. Spectators sat on bleachers built around the wrestling ring. There were 300 to 400, probably more, in attendance. Marshall was always victorious.”