Saturday, April 06, 2013

Building Detective: The I.O.O.F. Building

The I.O.O.F. Building, constructed during 1904 and by far the grandest building on the north side of the square, represents in brick, mortar and stone the midpoint of fraternal triumphalism in Lucas County. The era began in 1881 with construction of the no-longer-extant Union Block on the northwest corner of the square and concluded with William L. Perkins' 1936 Masonic Temple on South Main Street.

The Masons, Lodge No. 63 A.F. & A.M. organized during 1853, hold honors as Chariton's oldest fraternal organization, but the Odd Fellows, Chariton Lodge No. 64, I.O.O.F., was a close second, organized during 1855. By 1904, the Knights of Pythias were giving both the Masons and Odd Fellows a run for the money in both membership and triumphalism, having just capped the extraordinary three-story Temple Building on the south side of the square with what probably were the most elaborate lodge rooms ever built in the city. That building burned during 1930. Of the three lodges, only the Masons remain.

During 1881, the Masons and the Odd Fellows cooperated with each other and hardware merchant and entrepreneur George W. Larimer to build the three-story triple-front Union Block on the northwest corner of the square. When that building (below) was completed during 1882, the Masons owned the south third with First National Bank as their street-level tenant and lodge rooms stretching west along Braden Avenue on the top floor. The Odd Fellows owned the middle third of the building from bottom to top as well as the third floor of the north third (the first two floors of the north third were owned by Larimer). The Odd Fellows' lodge rooms were aligned north-south behind the North Main facade of the north two-thirds of the building.

By 1900, with expanding memberships, both lodges were beginning to feel cramped. There also may have been a degree of pride involved, too --- a perceived need to keep up with the growing Pythians who, during 1894, had built a small east-side building as an investment, then with Victoria Dewey, the grand south-side Temple Block.

During February of 1903, the lodges announced plans --- pending a financing and management agreement --- for a three-story, 40-by-80-foot addition to the west end of the Union Block, stretching north from Braden Avenue. But the lodges couldn't agree. By May of 1903, the Masons had decided to build a three-story addition to the west end of their third of the building only.

During April of 1904, the Odd Fellows finally agreed to sell their share of the Union Block to the Masons, giving them sufficient room to expand, and to build new quarters on two lots then occupied by the last wood-frame buildings on the north side of the square. The Masons then downsized their building plans and constructed a smaller two-story office building just west of the bank. Here's a news story announcing the deal:

The Chariton Patriot, May 26, 1904

Among the important real estate sales of recent date, in Chariton, we note the transfer of the east sixty-two and one half feet of Lot 8, Block 7, northeast corner of the public square, by the heirs of the Eikenberry estate to Lodge No. 64 I.O.O.F. of Chariton. This real estate sale which has been in process of adjustment since last winter, was closed, and deed therefore filed for record Wednesday, May 18, 1904. Consideration, $20,000. The purchase includes the two story brick building on the northeast corner of the square, now occupied by F.C. Stanley's fine grocery and the two one story frame buildings immediately joining it on the west.

These latter will be removed and active building operations commenced, at once, in the erection of a two story brick building of modern style. The second story, 40x100 feet, will be devoted entirely to the business and uses of the lodge. At present it is in contemplation to make the first floor room same size as above, for commercial purposes.

In consummating this sale, No. 64 I.O.O.F. sold all their interest in that part of the Union block, corner of Braden Avenue and Main street, northwest corner of the square, consisting of the three story brick building situated on the north half of the south half of lot 8 in block 6, original town of Chariton, the lower room of which being occupied by C.R. Kirk's drug store, to lodge No. 63 A.F. and A.M., consideration $16,050.

The two one-story buildings cleared away to allow construction of the new I.O.O.F. Building are visible next to what we now call the Piper's Building to the right in this vintage photograph, taken between 1894 and 1901. The Mallory Block, with an elaborate paint job and Rose's photographic studio on the second floor, is to the left; the Brown Block, built during 1893, in the middle distance; and George W. Blake's original hardware store building adjacent to it. The 1860s hotel building that once stood on the Charitone corner is to the far right.

The lots upon which the Odd Fellows planned to build had been purchased during 1894 by Lizzie Eikenberry as an investment after the 1893 death of her husband, Daniel. She built the Piper's Building for grocer Fred Stanley during 1894 and retained the wooden buildings as income properties. After Lizzie's 1901 death, the three buildings passed into joint ownership of her son and daughter, William A. Eikenberry and Sarah (Eikenberry) Sigler. The Odd Fellows disposed of the wooden buildings in order to build anew but retained the brick building as an investment property until its sale to Joe L. Piper during 1913.

Construction of the new building --- probably designed to A.O. Hougland --- began as soon as the frame buildings had been removed and was largely complete by December, when the Patriot reported on the 8th that: "A.D. Gray, E.W. Drake and W.P. Beem formed a committee from the I.O.O.F. Lodge here who went to Des Moines last week for the purpose of looking through the various lodge rooms there to see the furnishings and thus form some idea of the kind of furnishings they will want for their new lodge room here, which will be completed in a short time. The lodge expects to be in its new quarters by February first."

The Odd Fellows moved into still undecorated lodge rooms more or less on schedule and by late February, 1905, the ground floor retail space had been filled by J.H. Darrah's The Fair Store. According to The Patriot of Feb. 25, "Occupying two store rooms it is fitted throughout with new counters and up-to-date show cases and is filled with an immense stock of goods. Mr. Darrah has increased in quantity lines of goods already carried and has added other desirable lines of merchandise. Nearly everything one needs can be bought at the new Fair Store. To adequately handle the business of his new store he has installed a cash carrier system. The store is exceptionally well lighted by day while the Airlight gas lighting system lights the store at night."

Decorating of the lodge rooms was completed during March, according to the Patriot, which reported on March 2: "The work of decorating the lodge rooms in the Old Fellows hall is completed and walls and ceilings in the new home of Chariton Lodge No. 63, I.O.O.F. present an appearance not excelled in point of beauty by any lodge rooms in Iowa. The work was done by Louis Syberkrop of Creston, and consists of elaborate and artistic designs in water colors. The furniture for these rooms will be of oak in the 'mission' style and 'weathered' finish."

On Wednesday, May 3, according to The Patriot of the following day, more than 300 Odd Fellows from the region came to Chariton to help Lodge No. 64 dedicate its new quarters during a full day of programming that included at 5 p.m. parade.

Iowa Grand Secretary R.L. Tilten of Des Moines delivered the afternoon dedicatory address, declaring "the order of Odd Fellows to be one of the many great benefits given to mankind in the nineteenth century. He spoke of the grand objects of the order, its practice of charity, diffusion of brotherly love, and assistance to the cause of true religion."

The big parade got underway at 5 p.m., escorted by the Cleveland and Chariton bands. "In the parade was a company of the richly uniformed Patriarchs Militant of over thirty members from the lodges of Osceola, Murray and Corydon. There were nearly four hundred marchers in the parade."

According to the Patriot, "the new hall of the lodge cost $10,000 to build, and $2,600 was expended on furniture, interior decoration and other new equipment. It is probably not excelled by any other I.O.O.F. hall in Iowa. The lodge rooms occupy all of the second floor. Beside the large hall for lodge meetings there is a parlor, ante-rooms and a property room."

J.H. Darrah ran into financial difficulties during the 1920s and The Fair Store closed. During June, H.F. Spurgeon, then of Chicago, announced that he would move his Chariton store --- then 15 years old --- from its former location in the nearby Brown Block into the I.O.O.F. building. Spurgeons, a chain founded in Afton during 1907, remodeled the retail space and moved in during November, launching what would be the I.O.O.F. building's longest retail relationship.

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