orangeleader.com (Orange, Texas)

Local News

June 19, 2010

Historical building slated for demolition

ORANGE — The historic building, the Woodmen of the World Lodge, is set for demolition on Wednesday morning after it was damaged during recent hurricanes.

Les Anderson, of the Orange County Road and Bridge Department, said the structure will be torn down. Traffic will be diverted as workers demolish the building and remove the debris.

According to Dr. Howard Williams, local historian, the building was severely damaged during Hurricane Rita in 2005. The aging structure received roof and water damage. However, it was repaired within a year.

But, when the flood waters of Hurricane Ike blew through in 2008 the building was damaged beyond repair. There was about a foot of water inside the structure and the top story was “twisted.”

“Ike really finished it off,” Williams said.

As a result, the building was deemed unsafe and subject to destruction.

The original lodge was a two story wood structure on brick piers with a shingle roof and completed in 1915. The architecture was typical of the early 20th century social lodge type building and has been described as an example of mission revival design with some prairie school influences.

The main upstairs room was completely open. Indoor plumbing was not added for another 25 years after it was built.

Throughout the years, many changes have occurred. In the 1940s, to provide access and use as a store, the doorways were changed. In addition, a tin roof replaced the shingle roof after it deteriorated.

Two attached tin sheds were added. One was in 1941 while the other was added 30 years later.

In October 1989, the Heritage House Association of Orange purchased the building for use as a county museum. During the following two years they completely restored the building to its 1915 condition. But, all attached tin sheds were removed. The tin roof was replaced with composition shingles.

Orange County Commissioners resolved in 1992, the building would be the official Orange County History Museum, according to archives.

The Woodmen of the World Lodge building is significant in Orange County history as a symbol of a fraternal lifestyle and culture in the early 20th century.

The lodge was founded by Joseph Cullen Root in Omaha, Neb in 1890 as a new fraternal benefit society.

The Phoenix Camp No. 32, Woodmen of the World was organized in 1891. When the building was completed, they had the largest membership of any local secret fraternity and boasted 385 members, according to archives.

The women’s auxiliary to the Woodmen was organized in 1907 with 20 charter members and was extended to women whether or not they were relatives to Woodmen.

From the day of the building’s completion, the downstairs was rented to various businesses in Orange. The upper story was maintained for the lodge. During the years the bottom floor served as the Studebaker Repair Company, the Fregia Furniture Company, Bluebonnet mattress company and the Border Furniture Company.

The Woodmen Phoenix Camp No. 32 continued to meet in the lodge hall until 1989. One of the benefits of being a member was the special tombstones. The tombstones are constructed of cement and are shaped like a log with the WOW logo marked on them.

Debby Schamber is a reporter for the Orange Leader. She can be reached at 409-883-3571 ext. 2609 or at dschamber@orangeleader.com.

 

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