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Elks Lodge & Cleveland Ave.

You are now turning right onto Cleveland Avenue, one of the main roads of the community. This street was both residential and commercial. Mr. Bobby Saunders’ gas station and shop was just on the corner of New London Road and Cleveland Avenue, as mentioned earlier. Pointdexter’s Liquor Store also once existed on Cleveland. As of the 1930 census, 22 families lived on Cleveland Avenue. Pepper remembers two big trees on Cleveland Avenue  where the older men of the community used to sit and talk and share the community’s stories.

“That’s where the older guys would sit underneath that tree there and just talk about everyday life. That was the thing. You came home from school, seeing them guys in the summertime, sitting underneath there, just sitting there talking, or they’d have went out fishing or something and they would be sitting out there, and that’s where you heard all the stories.” ​

Many of the homes and businesses that were once on Cleveland Avenue are now gone, but one of the most important gathering places for the community still remains: the Elks Lodge.

The Improved Benevolent Protective Order of Elks of the World issued a charter on March 29, 1923, which established the Pride of Delaware Lodge #349. William Saunders, father of Bobby Saunders and important leader and community member in his own right, was the first Exalted Ruler of this lodge. In 1938, Lodge #349 moved to its present location, the building at 57 West Cleveland Avenue. Over its many years, the Elks Lodge has provided important services to the community. The Elks Lodge was used as a place for the community to gather and socialize. Further, the Elks Lodge created leadership and community service opportunities that wouldn’t otherwise have been available to this neighborhood. In 1924, the Lodge also became host to the Elizabeth Boulden Temple, a woman’s organization with close ties to the Elks. Members of the community used to cook and sell dinners out of the Elks Lodge to workers at the Chrysler Plant who were on the second shift. In addition, the lodge would host bands and balls for the community. This particular Elks Lodge has not only seen its share of important history, but continues to be one of the community’s important centers for gathering and creating new endeavors. 

Just behind the Elks Lodge was the site of the former schoolhouse, mentioned in the introduction. Opened in 1901, the school was a two-story frame building that was erected to accommodate the growing student body at John Congo’s school on Corbit Street. The school, funded by and for the New London Road Community, served as the only primary school for black children until the opening of the New London Avenue School in 1922. After the move, the school became a community center and gathering place.

At the next intersection, turn left onto Creek Road, or what is now called North College Avenue. If you wish to do the complete tour and don’t mind walking about a quarter of a mile, continue up Creek Road until you see White Clay Creek, just past White Clay Drive. If you’d rather stay closer to the center of the community, turn left onto Ray Street and select Segment #6: Ray Street.

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Elks Lodge & Cleveland Ave.
 
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