Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Then and Now: Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, Northwest corner of Third and Brown Streets, Philadelphia


The few extremely loyal readers of this blog may remember a very early post of mine featuring this same exact corner, whose history I was unable to find at the time. It would not have been such a mystery at all had I simply known where to look. Thankfully, as it is for all occupations, with time comes experience, and it is with great pleasure that I now return to this corner of Northern Liberties.

The building that once stood at the northwest corner of 3rd and Brown Streets was completed in 1846 as an Independent Order of Odd Fellows Hall, designed in an Egyptian Revival style that was then enjoying a brief period of popularity. Though only four stories tall, the Odd Fellows Hall was certainly an imposing presence among its neighbors. Especially distinctive were the ten bays of its east and south elevations, composed of three-story vertical window bands embedded within large pilasters. This majestic emphasis on verticality is in some ways quite reminiscent of the much later style of Art Deco. The pilasters and roof cornice were apparently painted in a dark red color, and the remaining exterior walls were covered by tan-colored plaster.

Had the Odd Fellows Hall survived to this day, it would have been one of the only remaining examples of Egyptian Revival architecture in Philadelphia, and one of a handful left in the United States. Despite the rapid expansion of the Odd Fellows' organization in the 19th and early 20th centuries, the fraternal society held on to their Northern Liberties site as late as 1922. However, by the time of its Historic American Buildings Survey documentation in 1961, the building's ground floor had long been gutted and converted to warehouse space (for J. Friedman Fruit & Produce Packages), while its upper stories remained vacant. After 130 years of existence, the former Odd Fellows Hall was destroyed by fire in 1976.

A vertically aligned comparison may be found here.

1. Bromley, George W. and Walter S Bromley. Atlas of the City of Philadelphia (Central). Philadelphia: G. W. Bromley & Co, 1922.
2. Independent Order of Odd Fellows, Third & Brown Streets. Historic American Building Survey HABS No. PA-1771.
Original photo: Boucher, Jack B. "PA-1771-1: Exterior view from southeast, showing east (right) and south (left) elevations." 1961. Historic American Buildings Survey. American Memeory. The Library of Congress. 23 Mar. 2010.

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