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Betsy Simon, Forum Communications, Published September 08 2012

Renovators find artifacts at Dickinson lodge

DICKINSON, N.D. – Josh Nichols laid his hand on the first of many hidden doors in the Dickinson Odd Fellows Lodge during recent construction efforts.

Nichols, who is helping renovate the lodge, said there is a small upper level in the building that has small closets surrounding the room.

“I was cleaning up the area, which was quite cluttered, and upon replacing the closet locks, I found that one door led to another small room with closets inside of that. That room had the bulk of the artifacts,” he said.

The items found include regalia, official documents dated in the late 1800s and early 1900s, ceremonial props used for lodge meetings and vintage items such as a steel coat rack and brass lampstand.

Nichols also is president of the Dickinson-area entertainment group, SneakPique Productions, which hosts shows and concerts at the Odd Fellows Lodge.

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is an international, fraternal organization that provides community support through scholarships, charitable donations and low-cost housing for seniors, and youth summer camps.

Upgrades have been ongoing for several years and include removal of a false ceiling, painting, electrical work and the hanging of pictures of downtown Dickinson, circa the early 1900s.

“A driving force behind many of the changes was the creation of SneakPique Productions,” Nichols said. “With events being held more regularly in the lodge, the Odd Fellows decided some upgrades may be in order.

“It was really the first time in a long time that the community realized the hall really existed,” he said. “It has been a great effort in the revitalization of downtown Dickinson.”

And the discovery period hasn’t ended, Nichols said.

“We removed the false ceiling as part of the renovation process to discover the original pressed-tin ceiling in the main lodge area,” he said.

This ceiling is the identical design to the one in the BrickHouse Grille, a restaurant also located in downtown Dickinson.

Another find includes a trophy-type piece with the Dickinson Rotary Club name on it. The club was going to melt it down but offered it to the Odd Fellows. When the Rotary Club did not have a physical meeting location, the first meetings were in the Odd Fellows’ building.

Kevin Holten, who has been president of the Odd Fellows Lodge in Dickinson for about a year, said after the renovations are complete, more of the objects will be on display at the lodge.

“The items are interesting, and we want to preserve them and hopefully make them available for the public to view after the renovations are over, around the first of the year,” he said.

Holten also said Suzanne Russ, a Dickinson State University psychology professor, is working to get the lodge declared a historical site.

“It’s an absolutely beautiful building with cubbies and skylights, and the work is being done now to restore the building and get it recognized as a historical site,” she said.

Russ said she thinks they will be successful getting the designation on the local level.

“Then we would try to go to the state,” she said. “I think there are only about five sites in this area, so I think we could be successful there, as well. We have pretty sound evidence.”

Since being uncovered, the artifacts are seeing the light of day and on display at the lodge, Nichols said.

“As they are official items issued to the lodge, they are not being destroyed or discarded,” he said. “We have much left to do in the way of organizing and cataloging the contents of the building, which will be an adventure in itself.”

Nichols has talked with the Dickinson Museum Center about creating an exhibit for the artifacts, if permission is granted from the national Odd Fellows organization.

“Simply put, they are just great pieces,” he said.

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