After the competition was held for the location of the Elks National Memorial, the land was purchased in 1921 from the Lehmann family. They owned The Fair store in downtown Chicago, which was one of the first discount department stores. The Lehmann estate, including a sprawling mansion, was demolished to make way for the Elks National Memorial.
A year after Swartwout's winning design was chosen, construction began in 1923. On June 7, 1924, the cornerstone of the building was laid, as part of a large ceremony attended by many and conducted by Grand Lodge officers. On July 14, 1926, construction was complete and the building was officially dedicated to the fallen Elks member who lost their lives during World War I. The dedication ceremony occurred during the Annual Convention of the Order, and attendance was large enough to pour into Lincoln Park.
"Elks War Memorial, Chicago" by Boston Public Library is licensed by CC BY 2.0
As the years progressed, the Elks National Memorial was continuously rededicated to the veterans of later wars. On September 8, 1946, it was dedicated to the Elks who served in World War II, in 1976 for the Korean and Vietnam Wars, and in 1994 for all of the other nation's conflicts. It remains the national headquarters and war memorial for the Elks, and is also open to visitors during regular hours.
In 1997, it underwent a renovation that preserved and restored the original features of the buildings, including the exterior and interior murals and sculptures. In 2013, it underwent another extensive renovation, further preserving its original features.