“A substantial cross walk now connects the Odd Fellows’ new building with the outside world.” The Eye, April 24, 1886.
In 1978, with memberships down to 14, from a high of 250, the Snohomish Lodge #12 of the International Order of Odd Fellows sold its historic home on the corner of 2nd Street and Avenue C. Like many of Snohomish’s historic structures around that time, the building needed expensive repairs exceeding the resources of the surviving owners.
The simple structure with solid proportions and modest Italianate accents was sold to a realty company. Twenty years later, a young man, sporting a long pony tail, walked into the office looking for an historic building that needed renovation and was told, “You’re standing in one!” The new owner restored the building for offices on the first floor, while maintaining the second floor in its original open layout, ideal for its most recent use as a daycare facility. We imagine that the extra-wide, switch-back staircase at the west end of the building never before in its history echoed with the unrestrained voices of very young people.
After the sale, the remaining lodge members attended meetings in Everett, but it was difficult to connect with the younger members of the big city lodge. Attendance dropped off, and by the time this writer went looking for former members in 2012, they had all passed away. Frank Green responded to our local news story looking for the Snohomish Lodge records. Frank was the son of William, once the last surviving member of the local lodge, and the oldest Odd Fellow in the country before he died. “It was only for a short while,” Frank quickly added.
Even though both his father and grandfather were once members of the Odd Fellows organization, Frank never joined. “I didn’t know much about it,” he claimed. “It was a very secret society. I suppose the records were taken to the dump.”
So we’ll never know how many contractors answered the call for bids published on page three of the October 17, 1885, issue of The Eye. A front page mention of the ad lists more details for interested contractors:
“The building is to be 35×80 feet and two stories high. The upper story will be used for lodge purposes, while two commodious offices and a fine public hall will be fitted up on the lower floor.”
The building site on 2nd Street is directly across Avenue C from the Masonic Hall on a lot sold to the lodge by lumber man and Mason Joseph E. Getchell. Nine years earlier, Brother Getchell and his wife donated the lot for the Masonic Hall.
The Masonic Lodge was established in 1876 and named Centennial Lodge. Our historian on the scene, and a founding member of the lodge, William Whitfield writes: “Starting the lodge and furnishing it was a good deal like a young couple getting married. Getting the license to do business was easy enough, but a home had to be provided and furnished for the family.”
Meeting above a saloon during the Masons’ “honeymoon,” the lodge attracted 34 members in just two years. Enough of them agreed to lend the lodge money at 12 per cent annual interest to build their own building, and the Masons called for bids from contractors.
Using Whitfield’s account of building the Masonic Hall allows our imagination to substitute somewhat for the missing records of the Odd Fellows Lodge — three bids were submitted on January 11, 1879: “George Tompkins, $1,970; Brother S. H. McNaughton, $1,900; and Brother Blackman, $1,850. By comparison, J. S. White’s winning bid for the Odd Fellows Hall is $2,426, reports in the November 28, 1886, issue of The Eye, for roughly the same size building, but following seven years of an expanding economy.
Brother Blackman, beginning construction of the Masonic Hall in January, had at least two rooms on the first floor ready for occupancy by March, when the Snohomish County offices moved in. By the time White’s Odd Fellows Hall is under construction, the offices expand to two rooms in the new building, including one for the clerk of the District Court, C. A. Missimer. A plank crosswalk spanned Avenue C to accommodate the employees.
“Snohomish Lodge No. 12, I.O.O.F. will meet in its new hall for the first time on Saturday evening, April 10th,” reports The Eye on April 3, 1886, along with a large ad announcing: “Grand Dedication Ball, at the Atheneum Hall, Tuesday Evening, April 20, 1886.”
An interesting item in the April 17, 1886 issue of The Eye, inadvertently describes nineteenth-century life in a Washington river town: “The erroneous impression has gone abroad that the ceremony of dedication of the Odd Fellows’ hall is to be secret. On the contrary the ceremonies will be conducted publicly, as is customary on such occasions, and will commence twenty minutes after the arrival of the steamer from Seattle.”
On April 24th, The Eye reports on the dedication under the subhead,
“The Mystic Links,” referring to the order’s triple links logo – three chain links containing the letters F, L and T, (Friendship, Love and Truth). According to the newspaper’s account:
“The Odd Fellows dedication ball last Tuesday eve was another ‘grand success,’ both financially and socially, owing partly to the excellent management, to the kindness of the ladies in getting up the supper – said to have been the equal of any ever spread on a similar occasion in Snohomish – to the good music, and last but not least to the large attendance. There were about 60 couples present, many of them being visitors from Seattle and neighboring towns. The impressive ceremonies in the afternoon attending the dedication of the new hall were those common to such occasions in Odd Fellowship and conducted by Grand Master Geo. D. Hell, of Seattle. We sincerely regret our inability to publish the able and eloquent address of the orator, Hon H. G. Struve. It had been hastily prepared the day before and Mr. S. claimed it was in no shape to go into the hands of the printer, and time prevented its being copied.
A description of the building dedicated has already appeared in these columns, but a brief description of the lodge room which, when fully furnished with canopies, etc., (as it will be in a few weeks) will be one of the finest in the Territory. The floor is covered with a three-ply Brussels carpet of a very pretty figure, while a handsome burnished brass chandelier ornaments the center. The altars and desks are illustrations of what handsome pieces of furniture can be made of our native woods in the hands of skilled workman. The cabinet work was done by A. H. Eddy and the polishing by Chas. Rosengrand. Snohomish Lodge No. 12, I.O.O.F. may feel justly proud of its new hall.”
Building for Lease
The ponytailed man who renovated the historic structure in the late 1990s died, and ownership passed to his daughter in 2006. Lease negotiations with the realty company, once an owner and then a tenant for over 40 years, broke down. In 2013, both the realty company and the daycare center moved to new locations, while White’s Odd Fellows Hall sits empty and silent.
For sure, no trace of the “three-ply Brussels carpet” remains, but above the drop ceiling, owners Nicole and Matt, discovered still hanging lamp fixtures — one in the center of the large open room, used for the lodge’s ceremonies, and two in the corners at the east end of the room. More research is required to date exactly the existing fixtures which are now electrically wired of course. During the era when the hall was built, 1885, it was uncertain if electric lighting would really displace gas.
With access to the attic, above the original ceiling, we would look for evidence of gas pipe installation. But one item that requires no more investigation is the floral themed chandelier medallion — it has to be original. A longer ladder will be needed to reach the medallion in order to determine whether it’s made of wood or plaster. A bigger step would be to remove the drop-ceiling and restore the original ceiling. Not all of history is looking back, some is up, watching over us.
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Edited by Susan Geib
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OTTO’S PHOTOGRAPHY NOTES:
White designed the IOOF building with a proportion and symmetry that give it a natural magnetism. Unfortunately, the venerable building now resides in close proximity to telephone poles, wires, and street signage. The axial view best isolated it from these modern intrusions.
The height of the camera was carefully chosen in order to minimize the merging of the telephone wires onto the upper portions of the windows and corner brackets. The photo was made about an hour after sunrise, with the lower half of the building receiving sunlight filtered through a lifting fog.
Camera: Horseman Superwide Pro, Lens: Rodenstock 35mm ƒ1:4.5, Back: Phase One P25+. Exposure: 1/15 second @ ƒ11, iso 100.
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