Streets of Washington, written by John DeFerrari, covers some of DC’s most interesting buildings and history. John is the author of Historic Restaurants of Washington, D.C.: Capital Eats, published by the History Press, Inc. and also the author of Lost Washington DC.
The Odd Fellows Hall, circa 1880. The two ground floor tenants are Asa U. Hazelton’s Boot and Shoe store on the left and the Webb & Beveridge China and Glass store on the right (author’s collection).
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows Temple, standing at 419 Seventh Street NW downtown, represents the rare persistence of a private organization at the same D.C. address for more than 170 years. The IOOF built their first hall at this location in 1845; today they still hold meetings here in the building they completed in 1917. Their previous hall, an ornate Victorian palace, was the scene of many social activities in the late 19th century but has rarely been captured in photographs.
The Odd Fellows are a benevolent fraternal society devoted to charitable works. The group began in England as “an organization of mechanics and laboring men, united for social purposes and to aid its members to obtain employment, as well as to assist them pecuniarily, when in need,” according to the group’s 1888 history. Like the Masons, the Odd Fellows were known for secret rituals, colorful uniforms and insignia, and elaborate ranks and degrees. The first American Odd Fellows lodge was founded by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861), a London blacksmith who came to America in 1817, in Baltimore in 1819. Odd Fellow lodges spread steadily throughout the United States after that, with over one hundred established by the 1830s. The first Washington, D.C., lodge was formed in 1827, and a Grand Lodge for the District of Columbia was established the following year. At least half a dozen separate lodges were formed throughout the District in the first half of the 19th century. (more…)