(From left) Colombo Lodge executives Mario Antak, Roland Perri, and John Lattanzio took the Trail Times on a tour of renovations now underway both outside and indoors, minding social distancing protocols. (Sheri Regnier photo)

Pandemic poses perfect time for makeover of historic Trail landmark

The Colombo Lodge has had many updates to the exterior and interior since it first opened in 1927

If you can’t beat it, you might as well make the best of it.

That’s what Colombo Lodge leaders are doing during the pandemic lockdown. When business came to a sudden halt, they chose to get busy and take on considerable renovations in the 93-year old brickhouse haven for Italian culture.

With all meetings and events like summer weddings nixed for the Rossland Avenue landmark, the Fratelli and Sorelle executives joined forces to freshen the interior from top to bottom with a coat of paint, new ceiling tiles, and modern fixtures. The kitchen will also be updated with new sinks and counter tops.

“We can’t do anything because of the pandemic so now is the time to fix the inside,” said Roland Perri. “We thank the ladies for their financial support and for providing the interior design.”

This work is being done in tandem with outer fixes – made possible by a building grant from Columbia Basin Trust and Heritage BC – that include replacing the old fire escape stairs and jazzing up the doors and peeling window frames to fit in with the heritage of the building. Prior to this four new furnaces were installed and the roof was replaced last fall.

The lodge enlisted the help from a local architect to guide them through the exterior renovations, including the colour scheme, to ensure the updated look doesn’t deviate from the heritage of the building.

“Outside the heritage look will be maintained,” Perri clarified. “Inside, in the main hall, the work is to keep it contemporary so it’s inviting for weddings and other events.”

The Colombo Lodge first opened in November 1927. As Perri pointed out, the mosaic of the exterior brick reflects the metamorphosis of the building over time.

The original brick section has style details, or layers, not seen on today’s buildings. Then toward the back of the hall, brick was dovetailed in when the kitchen was later added. Even further back are cinder blocks that close in the patio area. On the parking lot side toward Rossland Avenue is a newer looking brick column that encloses an elevator, installed several years ago.

Before the latest renovations began, the architect made an on-site visit and posed an important question to the executive.

“He said, ‘I really want to know how good this building is,’” Perri explained.

“I said, you know what? We have so much confidence we are going to be around for the thousandth anniversary of Columbus’ arrival in North America, (which is) in 2492,” he laughed. “So I said we want to make sure we stay ready, okay?”

In 1905, a group of Italian-Canadians held a meeting in Trail and the idea of a fraternal lodge was formed.

The name chosen was Societa Cristoforo Colombo di Mutuo Soccorso Italiana, Loggia #1, with Christopher Columbus chosen as their patron.

The lodge followed the concept of “mutuo soccorso” or “mutual help,” which they directed toward members and their families when they needed it. The disabled, those who couldn’t speak enough English to get by – these were the people who were willingly helped by the lodge.

Today, the Colombo Lodge remains a vital community hub. The big hall upstairs hosts 80 to 85 functions a year, while the small hall has been transformed into a museum and archives. Besides regular meetings, the lodge is open daily to members.

Because the membership is now third and fourth generation Canadians, meetings are mainly in English, and the focus today is on youth. The lodge does not accept members under 18 years of age, but it tries to make programs and activities interesting to the community’s young members.

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The old stairs will soon be replaced as part of the building’s overhaul. (Sheri Regnier photo)

The original hall doors will be preserved with a treatment yet to be determined. (Sheri Regnier photo)

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