Odd Fellowship started in England in the seventeenth century, when working men organized for mutual aid and community betterment. Long before the invention of a “social safety net,” these first lodges paid the expenses of members who were unable to work, and cared for the widows and orphans of those who died. It was a radical idea for the time; people didn’t know what to make of it, and called members “odd fellows”…and the name was adopted with pride.
Odd Fellowship first came to America in 1819, when Thomas Wildey and four other Odd Fellows from England founded Washington Lodge #1 in Baltimore, Maryland. With its self-help approach and its openness to every social class, it caught on quickly, and within twenty years lodges existed in every state of the Republic. The opening of the West led to a surge in membership as new lodges sprang up across the continent. The first Odd Fellows lodge in Washington State, Olympia #1, was founded in 1855. By 1870, when the first lodge was organized here in Seattle, the Independent order of Odd Fellows was the largest fraternal organization in the world.
Ballard Alki Lodge #170 traces its origins to 1900, when a group of Norwegian-American Odd Fellows living in Ballard decided to organize a lodge of their own. The new lodge began meeting later that year, and was formally chartered in 1901. In 1903, it became one of the first tenants in the Woog Hall, a rental hall on Market Street built and managed by Ballard resident Ola Woog, and purchased the Hall from Mr. Woog’s heirs in 1923. Our hall was among the centers of the Ballard community for many years. We weathered the difficult years of the late twentieth century, when many other community organizations went under, and began expanding again in the 1990’s. The admission of women to Odd Fellows lodges, starting in 2001, began a new phase of growth for our lodge and our Order.
Ballard Alki #170 is now one of the most active Odd Fellows lodges in this state. A diverse and enthusiastic group of men and women contribute to a range of local and Odd Fellows charities. We are reshaping the heritage of Odd Fellowship for a new century and we invite you to join us!
For more Ballard neighborhood history, check out the Ballard Historical Society website or blog.