As you walk down 41st St. S. or enjoy a bite at the Avondale Common House in Birmingham, you might notice an old two-story brick building with 19.IOOF.O2 inscribed at the top. A sign that a secret society met here?
With a little research I learned this old spot was an Independent Odd Fellows Society lodge, and the 19 and 02 on each end, represents the date the building was built-1902.
We have all known some fellows that are odd in our time and there certainly seems to be talk of “secret societies” these days, but I didn’t know anything about this group.
If you get a little closer to the building you will notice a stone marker inscribed with the history of this spot, the Avondale Lodge. Worn and carved words explain that the lodge originated in October 1898 and was erected in July 1902.
Today Image Hive an audio, film and video studio rents part the building. I left wondering just who these Odd Fellows were.
21st century research tool
It didn’t take long…after all, in my pocket I have a miracle machine that allows me find out almost anything with a touch of a button. Some of the symbols, photos of banners and patches looked absolutely mysterious and weird…in a cool way. Turns out they aren’t sinister at all.
Different walks-of-life to improve and elevate the character of man
I learned that the Odd Fellows began in 17th century England, in a time of mass poverty, sickness and lawlessness across most of the country. The average life expectancy in Britain at the time was only around 45-years-old.
In response to the challenges people faced, folks from different walks of life and trades came together to donate parts their wages to a common fund which members could access in times of sickness or unemployment, kind of like an insurance policy.
They were given the name Odd Fellows because it was strange to see people, from different backgrounds and professions band together. The Independent Order of Odd Fellows the North American branch, founded in Baltimore in 1819. They include both men and women as members.
One of the worthwhile things the Odd Fellows did was to build homes for their elderly members and provide homes and care for orphaned children of members.
They wore fancy uniforms, and engraved rings and elaborate symbols as many societies do, but they also did a lot of worthwhile philanthropic work. FDR and Ulysses Grant were both members as well as Winston Churchill, Warren Harding, Wyatt Earp and even Charlie Chaplin.
One notable Alabamian who was an Odd fellow was Hugo Black, who served as a Supreme Court Justice from 1937-1971.
Today there are over 10,000 lodges in 27 countries. They are mostly a social club now that does quite a bit of philanthropic work and donates to various causes.
Check out the Avondale Lodge. This building is right by Saturn, and guess what?
IT IS FOR SALE! Only $1,300,000 and this really cool part of Birmingham history can be yours. What other old Bham buildings stoke your curiosity?