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June 2012
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Story by Morgan Walker Photography by Vicki Hunkler

The aptly named Grand Lodge on Fifth is just that: grand. Simply spectacular during the holiday season, no shortcuts are taken in the design of this impressive space.

The most pronounced design element of the Grand Lodge is the building itself, which was constructed in 1905 as an Elks Home by the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks, a fraternal order founded in Paducah in 1891. There is no doubt that this building serves as a significant piece of Paducah history, having been the local chapter's lodge until 1991. Due to lack of upkeep, and the subsequent expense of making necessary improvements, the Elks moved and naturally took many of the decorative interior features with them. The beautiful "shell" then became available to anyone willing to accept the challenge of reviving the space that had at one time boasted such grandeur.

While the property changed hands a few times prior to significant restoration taking place, Grand Lodge owner Anne Gwinn knew she was up for the challenge. The restoration ultimately revolved around the upstairs ballroom. This was a very large undertaking for which Gwinn enlisted the help of Ray Black & Son because "the ballroom took some fairly specialized know-how," says Gwinn.

Despite the challenges, any guest at the Grand Lodge can easily see that it was worth the sweat. The ballroom space is truly unique in Paducah with its historical character, opulent chandeliers and 20-foot ceilings. It has certainly become a special venue in this region.

The complexities of the ballroom renovations aside, Gwinn says the staircase restoration was easily the biggest personal hurdle of the process. The grand staircase leading up to the ballroom is striking in itself, and that is due to Gwinn and her team's dedication to restoring it properly. The task was made all the more difficult by the fact that it had been painted prior to Gwinn's ownership. Despite the challenge, the staircase is surely reminiscent of its former glory days.

The Grand Lodge on Fifth doesn't stop with the beautiful ballroom. With its welcoming, dedicated bar space, parlor and expansive event space on the first level, the possibilities here are endless. There's even a private apartment available as your home for the evening after dancing the night away.

The next time you're at the Grand Lodge, take a moment to appreciate the uniqueness of the space. You can even look for some of Gwinn's favorite design features of the old Elks Home, which include the beautiful pressed tin ceilings -- a favorite of mine as well! Also look for a unique mosaic on the floor near the entrance, reminiscent of the building's days as an Elks Home. Finally, a "secret" feature of the exterior, notice the two sides of the building (left and right). They are different, one slightly more ornate than the other. Gwinn says the side facing the city was considered the "formal" side, presenting itself to the city in the best possible way. The opposite side, which faces away from the city, has less detail.

Whether you're looking for a place to host your next event, or lucky enough to be on a guest list in the future, look around and take in all that is the Grand Lodge: the architecture, the history, the hard work â ¦ it is sure to enhance your experience!

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