Thursday, July 8, 2010

Odd Fellows, Part I

There is an especially odd building in St. Anne's Hill.   It has tall arched windows and strong brick foundations.   It has a curious history and a prime location overlooking downtown Dayton.    Many people have noticed its stately shape; its looming presence casting long shadows across the street.  

It is known as the Oddfellows Hall.

It may surprise you to learn there are still Oddfellows in Ohio.   First let's explore some history, from the Independent Order of Odd Fellows website:
In 17th century England, it was odd to find people organized for the purpose of giving aid to those in need and of pursuing projects for the benefit of all mankind. Those who belonged to such an organization were called "Odd Fellows"... 
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded on the North American Continent in Baltimore, Maryland, on April 26, 1819 when Thomas Wildey and four members of the Order from England instituted Washington Lodge No. 1.
By 1861, there were over 200,000 Oddfellows across 42 states, according to Wildey's biography.   So that leads us to wonder when they came to the Dayton area.   The "Special Collections" archives at Wright State University Library has extensive files documenting Dayton's history, including our own St. Anne's Hill Historic Society archives.   

The Oddfellows Archive at WSU establishes their presence in the Dayton area, saying "The first Independent Order of Odd Fellows in Dayton, Montgomery Lodge #5, was instituted under a charter dated April 19, 1833.  The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Dayton Lodge # 273, was instituted April 20, 1855, and later became the I.O.O.F. Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen."  

Side Note: According to, the "Dayton Encampment" of Oddfellows wrote their Constitution in 1838, which provides some insight into their organizational structure.

Eventually, the local Oddfellows found their home in St. Anne's Hill.   Montgomery County Deed records indicate that the Oddfellows Hall in St. Anne's Hill was owned by Dayton Lodge #273 until the building was sold in 1982 - representing over 127 years of Dayton history.  Additional deed records reveal that several local lodges consolidated in 1983.

Stay tuned for Part II:  The Oddfellows Hall.


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