Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Louisiana

image description
A printed invitation to a Red Light Social Club event hosted at the Odd Fellows Hall

Photo Credit: Photo Credit: "R.L.C Club." New Orleans: 1889, p. 1. Located in John Minor Wisdom Collection, Louisiana Research Collections, Collection 230, Box 14, Folder 12, Document 619.

Contributors

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) is an organization not unique to New Orleans or even the South. Regardless, the organization has a rich history in the city of New Orleans.

History of Independent Order of Odd Fellows

Throughout the 19th century, the IOOF was the second largest fraternal organization in the United States. [1] IOOF was introduced to the United States from England in 1806. Symbolized by three links of chain, the IOOF represented “the tenets of friendship, love, and truth.” [2] The IOOF was similar to the Freemasons, but the members often represented a lower socioeconomic class. [3] The organization was often used to provide relief to members during times of distress. Specifically, they were known for the homes developed throughout the nation for those who needed housing. The organization boomed during the end of the nineteenth century, but declined throughout the twentieth century. [4]

History of Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Louisiana

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded in Louisiana on February 20, 1831. [5] According to the Louisiana legislature printed at its introduction, the Order was founded in Louisiana by George W. Cable, A. Mondelli, D. Sidle, W.W. Water, Robert Wood, A. Turner and Edward Ives. [6] The IOOF of Louisiana petitioned for a charter in 1832 and in 1833 the Grand Charter was delivered. Many of officers of the Order of Louisiana became officers a the national level and held high social positions. [7] The Louisiana Order had three particular important successes: Odd-Fellows Rest, the General Relief Committee, and the Widows’ and Orphans’ Relief Association. [8]

Odd Fellows Hall and Odd Fellows Hall Association

The members of the IOOF of Louisiana created a corporation for “fraternal religious, charitable, and literary purposes” called Odd Fellows Hall Association. [9] One June 18 and July 21, 1849, the Odd Fellows Hall Association bought land bounded by Camp, Lafayette, Magazine, and Girod Streets. A hall was constructed there at a cost of $225,000 meant as a space for musical entertainment and other social affairs for many different organizations in New Orleans. The Hall was completed on April 25, 1852. [10] On July 2, 1866, Odd Fellows Hall Association borrowed $50,000 from Edward Pilsbury for repairs that the Hall had suffered due to military occupation during the Civil War. Two days after on July 4, 1866, a fire broke out workshops of the hall. All the remained on the property were charred ruins. [11] The fire made national headlines. On July 7, 1866, The New York Times published an article explaining that “the most magnificent building in this city, except the St. Charles, was destroyed by fire last night.” [12]

A year later, the Association acquired a new property near Lafayette Square on Camp Street between Poydras and Lafayette. A new building was built on this property to accommodate lodge rooms, musical events, and social events. The hall was finished in 1867 and an dedication ceremony was held on November 1868. A parade was held with speeches made by members in the new auditorium. The Republican Party newspaper of the time, called “The Republican,” did not receive an invitation to the ceremony. The lack of inviation was not received well by the paper as they reported that there “was no courtesy extended to our reporters, and as they are modest and unobtrusive, no external report will be made of the ceremonies and speeches…” [13] This property was eventually demolished on December 15, 1914. [14]

On May 10, 1871, after acquiring two properties and a number of loans, Edward Morris Rusha, the president of Odd Fellows Hall Association, sold the four parcels of land where formed Odd Fellows Hall stood before the fire. It was sold to Patrick Irwin for the price of $51,000 cash. [15]

The Odd Fellows Hall hosted a number of notable affairs, including a civic demonstrations by the people of New Orleans. On December 9, 1952, the Odd Fellows Hall hosted a service to honor Henry Clay, John C. Calhoun, and Daniel Webster. This service was an important event for the people of New Orleans, as the spent weeks making preparations. The city was covered with items to symbolize their grief of lost over these statesmen. [16]

The Continental Guards occupied Odd Fellows Hall for many years. Located on the first floor, the Guards served as an armory for the hall. During events and special occasions, the Guards walked the streets of New Orleans in uniforms resembling those of the American Revolution giving a historical scene for the bystanders of the city. [17]

The IOOF is no longer an active organization in New Orleans and has not been for quite some time. On December 26, 1937, the site of the Hall between Lafayette and Poydras Streets were seized for unpaid mortgage that had been held by Commercial Germania Trust and Savings Banks. The Pan-American Life Insurance Company bid on and acquired the land for the sum of $31,000 cash. [18] The Grand Lodge of the Independent Order of Louisiana moved from New Orleans to Crowley Louisiana. The IOOF did leave a piece of its legacy behind in the cemetery at Canal Street and City Park Avenue, called “Odd Fellows Rest.”

Odd Fellows Rest

Located in a cemetery at the corner of Canal Street and City Park Avenue, Odd Fellows Rest is important part of the IOOF of Louisiana. At the time of its creation, the rest was described as an area with “beautiful walks, and dotted here and there with Lodge and family tombs, which being surrounded by flowering plants and shrubs placed there by the hands of affection, it presents a most pleasing aspect to the eye.” [19] Meant for a place where brothers of the IOOF could be laid to rest, it also allowed for a decent burial place for African Americans who had been denied burial otherwise. This “rest” still stands in the cemetery today leaving behind a last memory of the Odd Fellows Association in New Orleans.

Works Cited

  • Moore, William D. “Independent Order of Odd Fellows.” The Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. Cynthia Parzych Publishing, Inc, 2004, p. 248.
  • Moore, William D. “Independent Order of Odd Fellows.” The Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. Cynthia Parzych Publishing, Inc, 2004, p. 248.
  • Moore, William D. “Independent Order of Odd Fellows.” The Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. Cynthia Parzych Publishing, Inc, 2004, p. 248.
  • Moore, William D. “Independent Order of Odd Fellows.” The Encyclopedia of American Folk Art. Cynthia Parzych Publishing, Inc, 2004, p. 248.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 73, 1963.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 73, 1963.
  • Dunlap, John G. History of the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows of Louisiana, 1877, p. 9.
  • Dunlap, John G. History of the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows of Louisiana, 1877, p. 10.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 73, 1963.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 73, 1963.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 74, 1963.
  • “Burning of Odd Fellows’ Hall, at New Orleans.” The New York Times. 1886, p. 1.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 75, 1963.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 75, 1963.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 76, 1963.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 73-74, 1963.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 76, 1963.
  • Burns, Francis P. “St. Patrick’s Hall and Its Predecessor, Odd Fellows Hall.” Louisiana History: The Journal of Louisiana Historical Association 4(1): 76, 1963.
  • Dunlap, John G. History of the Independent Order of Odd-Fellows of Louisiana, 1877, p. 13.

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Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Louisiana

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Odd Fellows Rest

5055 Canal St, New Orleans, LA 70119