A 1903 Sanborn map showing the location of the Odd Fellows Hall. Map courtesy of the University of Florida.

Located at 330 West State Street, the Odd Fellows’ Hall was built as a replacement of an earlier lodge that was destroyed during the Great Fire of 1901. Then located at State and Cedar Streets, the building was constructed for the Grand United Order of Odd Fellows. The Grand United Order of Odd Fellows in America traces its origin to the original Grand United Order of Oddfellows in England, which was established in 1798. During the 1870s the Order spread west and south, establishing African American lodges in Florida, Texas, Colorado and California. According to James Weldon Johnson, the Odd Fellows lodges were made up of white collar workers while the local Masonic lodges recruited largely from stevedores, hod carriers, and lumber mill and brickyard hands. Famous members included Frederick Douglass and Madame C.J. Walker, the first female self-made millionaire in America.

A Green Book site, the Sunrise Restaurant was located at 829 Pearl Street (right storefront)

The Odd Fellows’ Hall building was constructed as a three-story structure. The first floor was subdivided into five storefronts. Two were located on Cedar (now Pearl) Street. Three were located on West State Street. The Odd Fellows’ Hall occupied the building’s second and third floors. The Cookman Institute held its graduation ceremony in 1907 at the Odd Fellows’ Hall. A young A. Philip Randolph, the class valedictorian, gave a speech he called “The Man of the Hour.” Randolph would later organize the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, the first predominantly African-American labor union and the March on Washington in 1963.

Several storefronts originally occupied the ground floor of the building facing West State Street.

In March 1912, Booker T. Washington, co-founder of the National Negro Business League and key proponent of African-American businesses, visited nine Florida cities as a part of his statewide tour. This would be one of several Washington visits to Jacksonville, including previous trips in 1898 and 1903. Washington’s 1912 Florida trip was sponsored by the Florida Negro Business League (FNBL), the state affiliate of Washington’s National Negro Business League. The FNBL was organized in Jacksonville in 1906. FNBL members included A.L. Lewis, a founder of the Afro-American Life Insurance Company; Joseph H. Blodgett, real estate developer and builder; Charles Anderson, bank owner; Lawton Pratt, mortician; and William Sumter, founder of the Union Mutual Insurance Company. In Jacksonville, the FNBL held a banquet for Washington at the Odd Fellows’ Hall after he arrived in town by special train. At the reception, speakers included Dr. A.H. Attaway, president of Edward Waters University; N.W. Collier, president of Florida Baptist College; Matthew M. Lewey, C.C. Manigault, Dr. A.W. Smith and W.K. Lewis.

The Jacksonville W.P.A. Concert Band performing at the Odd Fellows Hall. Photograph courtesy of the Ritz Theatre & Museum.