Workers have begun making critical repairs to one of the oldest structures in the Bentonsport Historic District, helping preserve the structure for future generations to enjoy.
Under the project, overseen by the Van Buren County Conservation Board, the Odd Fellows Hall will receive temporary shoring on its front, replacement of a deteriorated wood beam that supports the upper part of the façade, and repainting. Masons will rebuild a corner of the building, repoint brick with lime-based mortar, and gently clean them.
The Odd Fellows Hall (c. 1850) is a contributing resource to the Bentonsport Historic District. This two-story brick building, with its entrance on the gable end and symmetrical arrangement, is a vernacular interpretation of Greek Revival architecture popular at the time. Built as a furniture store and factory, in 1873 local businessmen and leaders founded the Des Moines Valley Odd Fellows Lodge, which met on the building’s second story. Van Buren County Conservation acquired the building in the early 1970s. Since then, artists and shopkeepers have occupied the first floor. Sisters Vintage & More, operated by Sue Trudell, is the current tenant.
In 1982, the state Odd Fellows organization established the second story lodge hall as the only museum dedicated to the history of the group in Iowa. The museum presents the fascinating story of the nation’s largest fraternal organization, which provided an important safety net for families, elderly, poor, and orphans in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Funds for this preservation project were provided through the generosity of the State Historical Society of Iowa’s Historical Resource Development Program and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 via the Van Buren County Board of Supervisors.