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Kentucky New Era

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Odd Fellows building marks 100th year

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Posted: Saturday, October 12, 2002 12:00 am

In the summer of 1938, Wesley "Tag" Mabry needed some spending money.

For a summer job, local wallpaper hanger Leonard Long hired the 15yearold to remove all the wallpaper on the third floor of the Odd Fellows building in downtown Hopkinsville.

"Back then, everyone worked when they could. There were many layers of paper on those walls that I had to steam off. It was extremely hard work, but I was making $2 a day. In the 1930s, that wasn't bad," Mabry said. "Thirteen years later, I joined the (Independent Order of) Odd Fellows, which held lodge meetings in those rooms."

Throughout the years, many prominent businessmen, local leaders and citizens have crossed the threshold into the historic structure on the corner of East Ninth and Virginia streets.

On Monday, the building marks its centennial birthday. Heart of Hopkinsville will celebrate this milestone with an open house for the public. Food will be served as tours of all three floors and an auction will be conducted beginning at 5 p.m.

The auction will include items donated by downtown and other city merchants. Some items from the building itself will be auctioned off such as squares of the old metal ceiling that were previously on the first floor, said Todd Moore, executive director of Heart.

In 1902, the Odd Fellows' Green River Lodge No. 54 bought the lot for the building for a mere $2,750. Construction was completed and the first meeting was held in the new hall on Oct. 15 of that same year.

"The Odd Fellows building has been an integral and vital part of Hopkinsville for many years," Mabry said.

In the past century, a variety of clubs and organizations held regular meetings in the upper floors of the building. The first two floors were rented as office space to drug store owners, doctors and insurance agents to help pay the debt.

Odd Fellow Lawrence Posey, 85, joined the Green River Lodge in 1943. He said the club met every Friday at 7:30 p.m. on the third floor. Among his most prominent memories were the meals prepared by the women's auxiliary, Jewel Rebekah Lodge No. 14, during the homecoming celebrations each December.

"The building had a nice kitchen and a great big stove and some of the biggest pots you ever saw in your life," added former Rebekah member Lillie Love. "We'd put up long tables and cook about three or four turkeys for the Odd Fellows and their wives."

After meeting there regularly for 85 years, the Odd Fellows sold the lodge in 1987 and moved their lodge headquarters to its present location on Earle Street.

A decade later the building was donated to Heart of Hopkinsville through the Local Development Corp., as part of efforts to revitalize downtown.

Renovation on the building began in June 2000 through grants from the Kentucky Heritage Council, the state's Renaissance program and other funds, all coordinated through the citycounty Planning Commission. Heart of Hopkinsville oversees the restoration and manages the facility.

Today, the lower levels of the building serve as offices for Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Southern Pennyrile and Powerhouse, a ministry program for local youth. Upper levels are being studied for development into office spaces or apartments.

"I'm delighted to see it refinished and fixed up," added Odd Fellow Bill Humphries, 83. "The Odd Fellows building has a lot of meaning for a lot of people in this part of the country."

Organizers of Monday's centennial anniversary event hope visitors will reminisce about the times spent at the Odd Fellows building. Admission will be $10 per adult and $3 per child age 12 and under. Reservations may be made by calling the Heart office at 8874015, but are not required to attend the festivities.

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