News Feature

Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, April 9, 2021
Stonington gets first dibs on Odd Fellows hall
Select board votes to buy the building

Joshua Davis Lodge

For over a century, the island’s Odd Fellows have been doing good for their neighbors from their waterfront lodge. Now the Town of Stonington is hoping to buy it and do something good for the downtown shopping district.

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The select board voted 5-0 on April 6 to buy the International Order of Odd Fellows hall on Main Street after the members decided to sell the building and use the funds to construct a new one.

The selectmen’s vote followed an executive session in which they discussed acquiring the property. The purchase is contingent on Town Meeting approval and the town’s ability to fund it, Town Manager Kathleen Billings said in a phone interview. The town is still negotiating with the Odd Fellows on a purchase price, she said.

Billings said the select board wants to buy the old hall to preserve the town’s commercial downtown.

“If it went out to somebody else and becomes a private residence, Stonington wouldn’t be the same,” Billings said. “Once it’s gone you can never get it back again.”

Billings plans to look for grants to fund the project. She said the town will look into using the property for waterfront development or enhancement. In the past, the town developed plans and permits to fill in the waterfront from the Odd Fellows hall to the Fish Pier.

Stonington Town Meeting will be held May 15.

Joshua Davis lodge

The Joshua Davis Lodge has used the building since 1903, said George Stevens, past grand master of the IOOF, in a phone interview. It was built in Deer Isle, then barged over to Stonington and reassembled as Redman’s Store. Today, he said, the lodge has 60 members, but only 15 or 20 attend meetings.

On March 31, the IOOF members voted to give the officers the authority to sell the building “because it had become a financial burden and increasingly hard to maintain,” according to the notice in the Island Ad-Vantages. They gave the town the right of first refusal.

Stevens said they once had an offer on the building, “but the older guys were in there all the time so that deal went sour.” They won’t decide where to build a new lodge until they have the capital in hand, he said.

Right now, Stevens said, the lodge is just trying to stay alive and do good for its neighbors. Stevens said he tries to send 10 island kids to a camp in Liberty every summer.

“There are a lot of good memories in the building, but you can make memories anywhere,” he said. But, he said, he doesn’t want to see the building go. “Renovate it, OK, but it would be a crying shame to lose it.”