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Fraternal and Sororital Groups

Spell-checking programs never like the word “sororital.” Like many things in English, the masculine terms have subsumed the feminine.

Fennimore County has had its share of secret societies, social organizations built around mutual support and common interest. Chief among them nationally are the “animal” clubs: Elk, Eagles, Moose, Lion and some lesser mammalia. There are those focused on religious affinity (Knights of Columbus) or ethnicity (Sons of fill-in-the-blank). Even the UCT or United Commercial Travelers was established to provide insurance benefits for the widows and orphans of traveling salesmen. The Ancient Free & Accepted Masons belong in this broad category, too, though they are more problematic to classify (not to mention the KKK). What is important here is that these groups often built substantial headquarters for their activities and the prominence of such facilities was a matter of community pride.

While shopping on eBay this morning, I ran across the former Elks Club in San Antonio, Texas, as an example:

TXsanantonioElks3 TXsanantonioElks2

It shouldn’t surprise us that Spanish Colonial elements contribute heavily to this wonderfully picturesque building. Though it has been photoshopped out in each of these views, the Elks Club stood next to the U.S. Post Office & Courthouse on the northeast side of Alamo Plaza, which puts it on present-day “E” Street, beneath the current Federal Building. Buildings like this housed a wide range of activities beyond actual meetings: playing cards and pool; dining and dancing; drinking and smoking. It would be difficult to estimate the quantity of Cuban cigars consumed in these premises and the equivalent number of business transactions consummated in those smoke-filled rooms.

To date, Agincourt has some of the nationwide organizations like Masons¹; it also has a strictly local organization, the Ancient Order of Archers, though I havn’t given much thought to the architecture of this power structure.

¹Actually the A.F.&A.M. does play into the foundational story of the Agincourt Project, because I needed a prominent site for the public library. A convenient fire on New Year’s Day in 1912 cleared the northeast corner of Agincourt Avenue and Broad Street for just that purpose.

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