In 1923, Newark Lodge 21 BPOE, commonly known as the Elks, marched in a procession from their lodge on Green Street to the location of their future lodge at 1050 Broad Street. One large spade and about 750 miniature spades were simultaneously plunged into the earth of the vacant lot at Broad and Camp Streets breaking the ground for the new $ 1,500,000 lodge. Mayor Breidenbach and numerous dignitaries from the BPOE spoke at this auspicious occasion.
The thirteen story structure was designed by Warren and Wetmore the architects of Grand Central Station and Neil J. Convery, a Newark architect and a member of the Elks Lodge 21. Neil J. Convery also designed St. Rocco’s Church(1926-27) on 14th Avenue at Hunterdon Street , St. Lucy’s Church (1926) on 7th Avenue and Sacred Heart Church(1929) at 481 Sanford Avenue in the Vailsburg section of Newark. St. Lucy’s and St. Rocco’s are both on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Newark Elks new home was designed to embody the latest in lodge building construction. The first floor contained a lounge, library, billiard room and a card room. The second floor was given over to the dining facilities and a reception room for the women guest. In addition, to the main restaurant there was also a private dining room. The kitchen measured seventy by eighty feet. The rear of the third and fourth floor was occupied by the lodge room, of octagonal shape, eighty feet across. The main floor could seat 1,500 and the mezzanine an additional 500. This room was surmounted by a dome sixty feet in diameter and rising forty feet above the floor. The lodge room was also equipped with a 2569 pipe organ. The front of the fourth floor had a swimming pool, gymnasium, showers and locker rooms. The basement contained a bowling alley , a barber shop, a shoe shine stand and locker rooms for the Lodge band. From the fifth floor up were 150 rooms for members and visiting Elks. Those rooms were designed to compare favorably with the most modern hotel. At the end of January 1925 the dedication and the festivities surrounding it took place over a period of three days.
By 1933, Elks Lodge 21, its finances impacted by the Depression and unable to pay the mortgage note, lost their building. In 1941, Abraham Ellis purchased the building from the financial institution that had foreclosed on the Elks.
The hotel , considered one of the finest in Newark, became the preferred location for political and business functions. Among the hotel’s many attractions was the Carousel Room nightclub, which could be entered directly from Broad Street. This night spot was a favored rendezvous for many years. In addition, the Essex House had three restaurants and eleven banquet rooms.
In early 1964, Abraham Ellis sold the Essex House to a group of investors for a reported one million dollars. Four years later the hotel closed. For a while the building was used to house welfare families. The city eventually ordered it closed. The building languished while various plans were presented and ultimately discarded. When the adjoining Newark Industrial Office Building was purchased for conversion into apartments it was thought that the Essex House might be suitable for a similar reuse. The developer, Essex Plaza Company of Freeport, Long Island ultimately determined that converting the hotel to residential use was too expensive.
On December 21, 1976 the demolition of the Essex House commenced. The site is now a walled garden for the Essex Plaza Apartments next door.