FAIRBANKS — A 105-year-old social club closed a chapter Thursday, moving out of its downtown home of four decades, and its leaders are weighing options.
Members called it a difficult night for the local wing of the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, which leaders said has worked with local and national charities consistently since its founding.
The group has worked from the same hall at 200 First Ave. since 1969. It sold the space last year after declining membership and other factors forced budget cuts, and leaders said the club never quite recovered.
It’s been a long time since Oktoberfest dances, wedding parties and deep membership rolls covered the bills at the club and its spacious first floor dance hall. Space at the Westmark Hotel, the Carlson Center, the David Salmon Tribal Hall and other buildings hadn’t yet arrived.
“This was the only show in town,” said Jerry
Krier, a former president. He said healthy revenue from the club’s membership and rental fees allowed it to donate to Joel’s Club, Lathrop High School sports and various nonprofits.
The Eagles — technically the Fraternal Order of Eagles, Aerie 1037 — has leased the upstairs social room from the building’s new owners for more than a year. But declining membership finally caught up. Ken Buggey, the current president, said membership held well above 350 when he joined 20 years ago but now is far less.
Members and friends stopped by Thursday night to share food and take turns loading furniture into moving trucks outside. Framed photos had long since come down, as had the wall-length mirror behind the bar.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Buggey said. Members held fundraisers and did what they could to keep the club open, he said, but a generational change in attitude toward social clubs was a factor, and has impacted other organizations as well.
Donna Krier, Jerry’s wife and another former president, said a women’s social club closed earlier this year for similar reasons.
Fairbanks simply has more things to do than three or four decades ago, she said, which cuts the need for classic social clubs.
The Eagles’ hall closed for one or two months when the building was sold in early 2009.
“Things just never got up and running full bore again,” Jerry Krier said.
Buggey said officers will keep up their twice-a-month meetings, probably at another social club in town. Officers will share details soon, he said.
Contact staff writer Christopher Eshleman at 459-7582.