The Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, Missouri
January 02, 2018
Modeled on the group founded in England in 1745, the American form of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was organized in Baltimore in 1819 by Thomas Wildey (1782-1861). As a fraternal and benevolent order dedicated to providing aid to members and their families, the Odd Fellows built and operated a number of homes throughout the United States. These homes provided care and shelter for elderly or ill Odd Fellow members, widows and their children.
The site of the Odd Fellows home pictured above was originally the location of the Reed Springs Hotel built in 1888. Constructed near the site of newly discovered mineral springs, the hotel, later named the Winner Hotel, became a popular wellness and relaxation site for visitors from across the country. The hotel changed hands a few times before the I.O.O.F Grand Lodge of Missouri purchased it in 1895.
The property included 12 acres of farm land with an option for 230 additional acres. The original hotel structure was destroyed by a fire in 1900. The brick administration building pictured here, a school, a hospital, a working farm, and a cemetery were erected between 1900 and 1930. A nursing home and new hospital were added in the 1950s. Physically able residents were expected to work on the farm. Its products provided food for the site and were sold for profit. At the height of its activity, the home housed just under 200 children and adults. By the early 1950s the orphanage closed. The site remained open for permanent hospital patients and convalescent members. At this same time the Grand Lodge voted to allow paying non-members to stay at the hospital.
The Odd Fellows Grand Lodge of Missouri operated the home and hospital until 1993. A local family in the winery business purchased the Home in the early 1990s. The largest building on the site is now home to the winery's tasting room and offices. The lobby of the main building houses a small exhibit of Odd Fellows artifacts and regalia, including a skeleton of a past member who, according to the current proprietors, donated his body to the Odd Fellows after his death. Odd Fellows symbols are still visible in the architecture throughout the main site. In recent years the winery and other buildings on the site have become well-known landmarks and have been included in a variety of Travel Channel shows. The site has been on on the National Register of Historic places since 1987.
Interestingly, the Museum recently purchased a charming miniature chair in a bottle that was made at the Odd Fellows Home in Liberty, Missouri. Previous research from a past blog suggests that initials on the chair "G.G. Barnhart" are the initials of the maker, a George G. Barnhart. According to the 1920 United States Census, he was living at the "Odd Fellows Home" in Liberty, Missouri.
Do you or your family have any memories, photographs, or experiences related to this or other Odd Fellows Homes? Leave them in the comments section below.
Deon K. Wolfenbarger & Lacey Alkire. "Odd Fellows Home District." National Register of Historic Places Inventory/Nomination Form. Missouri Department of Natural Resources State Historic Preservation Office, Jefferson City, July 1, 1987.