It Just Might Work: Resurrect the Odd Fellows Lodge

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eric headshotby Eric Ginsburg

I wound up in journalism almost by accident — I didn’t picture myself doing it professionally until I turned around and realized I already was — and sometimes I think about what I would be doing if I didn’t have this privilege.

When my Guilford College friend Emma Tessler’s company, Dating Ring, eventually expands to the South, I’ve told her I want to oversee matchmaking for the state or region. Of all the roles Will Smith has played, his character in Hitch is the one I would most aspire to be.

Matchmaking or anything involving food and travel aside, the only other vocational fantasy I engage in regularly involves buying an abandoned building or warehouse with friends and turning it into something rad. And resurrecting the Odd Fellows Lodge in downtown Greensboro is a lead contender.

I’ve heard rumors about what’s inside the dilapidated venue — a pool and a bowling alley, I’m told from wholly unreliable sources. I can’t even tell if the space is still in use — the answering machine is cryptic, nobody called back and I’ve never seen anyone coming or going. The property is still owned by the “Buena Vista Lodge No. 21 Independence Order of Odd Fellows,” according to Guilford County records. Odd indeed. Maybe the clubhouse is still active, but if so it’s horribly underutilized.

I don’t have a cent to put towards the venture, or any time to devote to it beyond this column, so I haven’t indulged myself by researching it further. And I probably shouldn’t even bring it up, because it’s so close to the Kingdom of Carroll that the local bigwig killjoy will probably buy it now just to make sure nothing fun happens there.

But here goes anyway.

What if a bunch of us, and by us I mostly mean you, instigated a massive grassroots-funding campaign to collectively purchase the Odd Fellows Lodge? Maybe there is a pool and a bowling alley that could be salvaged, areas where private bars could be built, a veritable playground for the young and the restless. It would be collectively owned and managed, not too far afield of other such clubs, but it would be in the heart of the city’s downtown.

Located near the corner of Greene Street and Battleground Avenue, the Odd Fellows Lodge has to be the strangest piece of architecture in the Gate City’s downtown. It appears more like a former mental institution than a club, partly thanks to its minimal windows. The building is all the more jarring now that headhunting firm Charles Aris moved in and constructed a new headquarters next door. But it’s alluring nonetheless.

  • John Davis

    Eric, this is brilliant! Is there a parent entity for the Odd Fellows? Maybe they know something or can advise how one might join the lodge.

  • John Whisnant

    I attended a wedding there. With a little updating, it could be GSO’s coolest downtown event venue. Sure hope it doesn’t get hit with the wrecking ball.

  • Jordan Green

    I’ve always wanted to be accepted as an odd fellow.

  • Toby H.

    If there’s still a functional lodge in that building you can apply to join the lodge. Once you’re a member you can have access to all of the features of the lodge, whatever they may be. It isn’t necessary to start a funding campaign to buy the building; if there’s a lodge that still meets there all you have to do is join and become a member. Long before there was crowdfunding or any other means of Internet-based collective action there was fraternalism: the means by which people could pool resources for common benefit. The Odd Fellows was (and still is) one way of doing that. I would encourage you to check with the Grand Lodge of North Carolina and find out if that lodge is still active. If they are, join the lodge and get involved. You can get the contact info for the Grand Lodge of North Carolina at http://www.ioof.org/IOOF/Jurisdictions/USA/State/IOOF/Jurisdictions/USA-NC.aspx. Good luck!