Oddfellows Hall

Odd Fellows Hall ca. 1889, photographer unknown. [Image: UMD Martin Library]

20 North Lake Avenue | Architect: Oliver G. Traphagen | Built: 1888 | Lost: 1975

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a secret fraternal society founded in England in the eighteenth century, established its first lodge in the United States in 1819 as a benevolent club to aid widows and orphans. Duluthians organized Odd Fellows Lodge No. 28 in 1870, the same year the Zenith City first became a city. Duluth’s Odd Fellows numbered 155 members when their 1889 lodge was constructed; twelve years later, enrollment exceeded 1,000.

Oliver Traphagen, himself a member of Lodge No. 28, designed Duluth’s Odd Fellows Hall. The Duluth Daily News wrote that “the building is three stories, brick, stone, iron and terra-cotta, of pure Romanesque architecture.” Details included a square tower with a balcony and pyramidal cap, Roman-arch windows, a granite entrance portico, and a profusion of carved stone symbols along the Lake Avenue façade. Carvings included the Chain of Three Links, three interconnected chain links that contained the letters F, L, and T, which stood for Friendship, Love, and Truth: the Odd Fellows’ guiding principles. (Odd Fellows are also known as the “Three Link Fraternity.”) The fraternity’s meeting hall and anterooms occupied the third floor, whose ceilings stood sixteen feet high. The Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway originally rented the second floor’s eleven office rooms and the basement, while household furniture retailers Bloedel & Ebeling rented both first-floor storefronts. Traphagen moved to Honolulu in 1896; there he joined the local chapter and in 1904 designed that city’s Odd Fellows Hall.

The Odd Fellows left the building in 1921 after purchasing the Spina Block, located across Lake Avenue. The 1889 building’s retail space continued to serve furniture stores, including Whelan-Linck in the 1920s and ’30s and Rudolph’s in the 1950s. Later the Odd Fellows building sat vacant until it was demolished in 1975. Its former lot now contains a portion of a parking ramp.

Oddfellows Hall. (Image: Duluth Public Library)