The International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF), a fraternal society founded by Thomas Wildey in Baltimore, Maryland, in April 1819, was spawned from a similar organization that originated in England in the 1700’s. The IOOF was established as a service-oriented organization and according to its official website is “…composed of Men, Women, and Youth, believing in a supreme being, the creator and preserver of the universe, who have come together in our local communities having the same beliefs and values as others, that; Friendship, Love and Truth are the basic guidelines that we need to follow in our daily lives. Through working in our local Communities, States, Provinces, or Nationally we understand that we can make a difference in the lives of people in our World.” The Odd Fellows have also become represented by their Three Link Emblem, which stands for Friendship, Love, and Truth.
The IOOF, which became heavily involved in local charity work, opened Lodge No. 865 in Wampum, Pennsylvania, in January 1874. The lodge members initially met in various locations until a new three-story lodge building was dedicated on Main Street in early April 1894. The bottom floor was rented out to various businesses, the second floor had a small but first-rate theater/auditorium, and the third floor was home to the lodge meeting rooms. The second floor theater became the scene of many plays and performances and the building itself was usually referred to as the Wampum Opera House. The IOOF also had an associated women’s branch known as the Rebekah Lodge and Wampum briefly supported one of these lodges as well. This group, known as the Jemimah Rebekah Lodge No. 264, was only active from May 1904 until closed in July 1914.
Various businesses occupied the Odd Fellows building over the years. David M. Marshall founded his furniture and undertaking business on the bottom floor of the building in 1905. The First National Bank of Wampum, organized by William H. Marshall, had their offices in building for a time. A movie theater occupied the second floor for a time in about 1918-1920. In the early 1920’s the second floor was converted into a gymnasium and became the cramped home floor of the Wampum High School basketball teams – until the floor was condemned for such activities in 1940.
In June 1932 the Odd Fellows Lodge No. 865 was merged with several other lodges to form the new Odd Fellows Lodge No. 9 in Ellwood City. I believe the Odd Fellows sold the building in Wampum soon after this. After the basketball games stopped in 1940 most of the building was used for retail or warehouse space or rented out as apartments. Among the tenants during the 1960’s was the Brown-Houk Hardware business and the Butler Grocery Store. Various other businesses have occupied the building over the years, which today is home to a cabinet making business.
The Ellwood City Lodge No. 9 closed in the mid-1980’s and was consolidated into the Rock Point Lodge No. 865 south of Wampum. The Rock Point Lodge, the last remaining Odd Fellows organization in Lawrence County, closed its doors in about 2003. The former Odd Fellows building on Main Street in Wampum still stands as a testament to town’s glory days, but due to neglect and its deteriorating condition this structure will one day be lost like so many other grand buildings in Lawrence County.
The IOOF Lodge No. 865 was shutdown in June 1932 and merged with several others to form a new IOOF Lodge No. 9 in Ellwood City. Over the years the building has been home to numerous businesses. (Apr 2010) Full Size
The facade of the old building. (Apr 2010)
The small cabinet shop – and apparently the whole building – was up for sale in 2011. (May 2011)
The school kids of Wampum put an their annual masquerade play, shown here in September 1899 on the second floor theater of the IOOF hall. (1899) Full Size
The building is crumbling at spots on the outside and I imagine its future is in doubt unless renovations are undertaken. (Apr 2010) Full Size
(Apr 2012) Full Size
(Apr 2012) Full Size