A Look Back in History
In June 1961, Harrison S. Barnes, PVP, PDD, PER Plainfield #885 and James M. Tumolo, Plainfield PER #885 discussed the possibility of forming a new Elks lodge in the Watchung Hills area.
By September, the foundation of the new Watchung Hills Elks lodge was taking shape. The first few meetings were held at the Warrenville Tavern. Many times the entire tavern was encompassed by the gentlemen wishing to learn more about Elkdom. Ed Hannon PDD, PSP, PER, Dunellen #1488 attended many meetings to further the cause of Elkdom and discussed the advantages it would have for the community. Many attendants gave leads on possible members. Post cards were then sent, inviting them to attend the next meeting.
In January and February 1962 they had to move the meetings to the Warren Township Rescue Squad because they had outgrown the tavern with their achievement of 100 members. Temporary officers were appointed. The Grand Secretary L.A. Donaldson announced on February 9, 1962 our lodge number would be 2252.
On February 20, 1962 the anticipated gathering was again too large for the Rescue Squad, so it moved to the Exempt Fireman’s Hall. A this session election of permanent officers were held. Henry J. Behr, ER of Metuchen Lodge #1914 and his officers presented our first Exalted Ruler, James M. Tumolo with jewels for the Officers of Watchung Hills Lodge. The Watchung Hills Elks #2252 officers were officially installed on March 4, 1962 with 137 members.
In 1964 a holding company was formed with the charter membership to secure a mortgage to purchase the Hofheimer Estate which included 6.5 acres of land, a house, garage, stable, cabana, pool and a grotto.
Having fallen into a state of total disrepair for many decades, the entire Estate had to be refurbished. The well was producing black water. New sewer lines had to be installed. A flood in the basement caused the need for a new oil burner and a sump pump. Remodeling soon began in the interior of the home with tearing down walls to make the bar room. Later, the men’s bathroom was installed and the new entrance built. All these improvements were accomplished by donations and volunteers and at no cost to the lodge.
To start earning money for the lodge, a stove, water lines and washtubs were installed in the newly painted garage to prepare food for lodge functions. The stable building was originally filled with debris and remnants of horse smell everywhere. Members cleaned this area, added more bathrooms with fixtures donated from Camp Kilmer, and soon began having lodge meetings in what was named “Maxey Hall.” The picnic area was then built with the help of the entire membership and donations from local merchants.
The Grotto, at one time, had a cascading waterfall into the pond below. The short-lived waterfall was lost a few years later when the water flow was diverted to nourish the grass on the adjoining golf course. Our Grotto is the result of copper mining during the era of the civil war. When the mining operation was discontinued the shafts were flooded and the entrance to the mine was converted into the present grotto.
In December of 1982, Watchung Hills Elks Lodge #2252 broke ground on the extension to the house, which would become the new meeting room.