Posted by: Brad Nixon | November 16, 2019

Odd Fellows and Redmen and Other “Found” Architecture

You’ve seen them. In cities, towns and villages, all across the United States, they’re all but ubiquitous.

In Jacksonville, Oregon …


Jacksonville Red Men Brad Nixon 4708-9-10 680

… Centralia, Washington:

Centralia Masonic Brad Nixon 4428 680

… Tehachapi, California:

Tehachapi IOOF Brad Nixon 2355 680

I wasn’t looking for those buildings. I found them by accident.

As I travel, I enjoy photographing and writing about interesting buildings. I’ve focused on public architecture — including libraries, post offices, train stations, courthouses — plus more than a few residential structures, large and small.

On a recent trip to Tucson, Arizona, my list of local buildings to see included the city’s Carnegie library building, the campus of the University of Arizona and the historic Presidio area.

I found a bonus downtown. Call it a “target of opportunity:” the 1919 International Order of Odd Fellows hall.

Tucson IOOF Brad Nixon 5909 680

All these photos show lodges and meeting places of fraternal organizations — the Freemasons, International Order of Odd Fellows, and Redmen, although there are others.

If you live in the United States, it’s likely there’s at least one of these imposing brick or stone structures in your town or somewhere near you.

“Found” Architecture

After years of encountering them — everywhere — I’ve begun photographing them. Here’s an Odd Fellows Hall I passed on Main Street in Springfield, Oregon, built in 1909.

Springfield IOOF Brad Nixon 4577 680

One can’t make endless detours to photograph every interesting building. I don’t intend to pursue these buildings indefatigably: There are simply too many of them. The organizations who built them were an integral part of the towns and cities of America, as demonstrated by their presence, everywhere.

Here is a sampling from around the west, with a few details about the organizations that built them, in case they’re unfamiliar to you.

Similar Memberships, Goals

With the exception of the Freemasons, those organizations originated in the United States in the 1800s. They are, to some degree, secret societies, with rituals, uniforms and traditions, some of them quite complex. They espouse a variety of civic-minded values, philanthropic goals, and some ethos intended to foster fellowship, loyalty, promotion of the public good.

All originated as solely male organizations, although they all have “auxiliary” organizations for women, and usually junior branches for girls and boys. Some have begun accepting female members.

They were at once social organizations, civic boosters and, often, promoters of some degree of religiosity, which could be as general as a belief in a “supreme being,” or more specifically a type of patriotic Christianity.

Membership in most of the clubs has declined since peaking in the early 20th century, although all are still extant.

Some Western Examples

Masons

The Masons are probably the most familiar to most readers, even internationally.

Here’s a Masonic lodge building close to me in Redondo Beach, California.

RB Masonic Lodge Brad Nixon 0768 680

With traditions related to the stonemasons’ guilds of the 14th century, the Masons are the oldest and largest of these groups.

Although international in scope, rituals and rules of membership are determined locally. There isn’t a worldwide central organization that directs all Masonic practices (despite persistent theories about worldwide Masonic conspiracies).

The current Masonic order took shape in the early part of 18th century, including in America.

Knights of Pythias

Founded in 1864,  the organization takes its name from the legendary friendship of Damon and Pythias, and the Knights’ charters and rituals stress loyalty, honor and friendship.

Here’s a now-unused Knights of Pythias lodge in Lordsburg, New Mexico, built in 1927. Originally, the lodges were referred to as “castles.”

Knights Pythias Brad Nixon 6137 680

Once boasting nearly a million members, there were about 2,000 lodges worldwide in 2003, with approximately 50,000 members.

International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF)

The I.O.O.F. was founded in the U.S. in 1819, outgrowth of an English Order of Odd Fellows, which dates from the 1700s.

That “Odd” in the title reportedly originated when an early skeptic said an organization dedicated to helping the poor must be some “odd fellows.”

According to Wikipedia, there are approximately 600,000 members in 10,000 lodges in 26 countries.

Another look at that Streamline Moderne former IOOF in Tehachapi, California, also seen above, built in the early 1930s.

Tehachapi IOOF Brad Nixon 2356 680

Woodmen of the World

Here’s a building I happened to drive past in Eugene, Oregon.

Woodmen Eugene Brad Nixon 4857 680

The inscription above the door of that rather Art Deco structure reads, “W.O.W.”

It’s the only Woodmen of the World building I’ve encountered — or at least noticed.

Founded in 1890, the Woodmen’s focus was on a variety of philanthropic and civic programs, with an emphasis on providing mutual support for fellow members, including financial support.

In a process involving several structural and name changes, the organization’s evolved into — if I have this correct — a not-for-profit insurance company for approximately 700,000 members.

That Eugene building was erected in 1936, and is now a community center.

Woodmen Eugene Brad Nixon 4860 680

Improved Order of Redmen

Perhaps the most problematic of the names and practices of any of the organizations is that of the Redmen, founded in 1834.

While the membership was entirely Caucasian and male, its titles and rituals derived from odd notions of the names and regalia of Native Americans, including local chapters named “Tribes” that met in “Wigwams.” It remained “whites-only” until 1974.

Membership peaked at about half a million members in the mid-1930s, but has shrunk to perhaps 15,000.

Here’s the Redmen’s Hall, 1884, on Main Street in Jacksonville, Oregon.

Jacksonville Red Men Brad Nixon 4711 680

More in Jacksonville

The small town of Jacksonville, Oregon demonstrates the pervasive presence of the fraternal organizations. It was once the the county seat and a thriving, principal town of southern Oregon. Today it’s a picturesque small town full of interesting old buildings.

A single block of Jacksonville’s historic downtown includes three historic fraternal lodge buildings, including the Redmen’s Hall, at the far left in this view of Main Street.

Jacksonville Oregon Brad Nixon 4695 680

At the north end of the block is the 1877 Masonic Lodge, 1877.

Jacksonville Oregon Brad Nixon 4698 680

To the right of that photo, on Oregon Street, is the former I.O.O.F. temple, built in 1856.

Jacksonville IOOF Brad Nixon 4720 680

Not all fraternal lodges are in historic buildings, and many are in smaller structures. Perhaps I’ll visit some of those in a later post.

Is there a lodge in your town? Do you belong to one? Leave a comment.

Licensable, high resolution versions of editorial use photographs in this post, and select images from other Under Western Skies posts are available on Shutterstock.com. Click on the linked photos, or CLICK HERE to view the Underawesternsky photo portfolio.

© Brad Nixon 2019


Responses

  1. Nice summary for everyone who has walked by such buildings and wondered about those often curiously named organizations.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. (As you know) I resisted the temptation to focus on these buildings for years, but curiosity finally got the better of me.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Brad,
    Have you been to the Redmens Sequoia Lodge #140, at 543 Shephard St San Pedro? We were invited to a birthday party there about a year ago. The main room there is a little gem. Did not go out to the back of the building but it must have a panoramic view of the ocean.
    Thanks for this entry in your blog. I have always found these old orders and their buildings fascinating!
    Dana Graner

    Liked by 1 person

    • Fantastic! No. And — checking the map — that place is about 500 feet in one of our usuals walks that ends at Pt. Fermin: just across Sunken City. If we’ve ever driven down Shephard St., I didn’t notice the lodge. Well, maybe we’ll head over there today. Thanks for pointing this one out. See, I said in the article I haven’t gone LOOKING for the lodges. And, yes, that place should have a view straight out toward Catalina (now that Sunken City’s houses have slid toward the ocean and been torn down). I’ll report back.

      Like

      • I’m curious what you find. The members were friendly when we were there. We had no idea where we were going when we got an invitation to go to the Redmans Wigwam.

        Like

      • About ready to start looking into this, once I finish Monday’s blog post. A short drive to Shephard St. is in our future. Thanks!

        Like

  3. My dad was a member of both the B.P.O.E. (the “Elks”) and the Masons. The Elks lodge in our town was a free-standing building, but the Masons’ lodge was on the town square, in a second-story space above several retail businesses. I never was inside the Elks’ lodge, but every Friday night the Masons had a “family night” with steaks for the adults and hamburgers for the kids. Then, there would be dancing to a live orchestra. My dad taught me to dance there, both ballroom and swing. I still can’t hear Benny Goodman’s “Sing, Sing, Sing” without being transported back.

    When I came to Texas, I discovered the SPJST, or Slovanska Podporujici Jednota Statu Texas, a Czech fraternal organization. They have lodges, do good works in their communities, and also have dances. Thanks to the SPJST, I learned to polka.

    Do you know about the Woodmen’s tree stump cemetery stones? I found them in Arkansas — there are some photos, a little history, and a side story about the Texas all-female Supreme Court here.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wonderful stories about the Masonic Fridays. You and your dad, dancing!
      Our town at the Elks, Eagles, as well as Masons, K&P and IOOF, and, of course, American Legion, VFW. No, I have not heard of the SPJST. Fascinating.
      In nearby San Pedro, as I may have written, there are a Dalmatian Club, Croatian Club, Italian Club, and I think I’m missing one Adriatic organization, all stemming from the fishing heritage of the town.
      Yes, I know OF the Woodmen’s tree stump tombstones, but I haven’t seen one, myself.
      An all-female Supreme Court in Texas? THAT link I will follow! Thank you.

      Like

  4. Hi Brad, I only just saw this article today although it’s a year old. I hope you’re still receiving comments!
    I am a member of the Davis Odd Fellows Lodge in Davis, CA. We are the largest Odd Fellows Lodge in the world with over 300 members. Before COVID-19 ground everything to a halt, we were an extremely active lodge in our community. There was rarely a day or night when there wasn’t an activity being held at our beautiful lodge. We are all about service to our community. Please take a look at our website to get some idea of the things we have done and continue to do during the pandemic.
    In Friendship, Love & Truth (our motto),
    Juelie Roggli

    Liked by 1 person


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