This week we’re on fountain square in downtown Bowling Green. While the Independent Order of Odd Fellows has been in America for more than 200 years, the Odd Fellows building in the 400 block of park row has had unusual features since 1892.
The Odd Fellows fraternal lodge in Bowling Green was originally located in the Yarbrough building on Main Street, but the chapter moved here when this building was constructed. And at the turn of the 20th century, it was common for large fraternal groups to build meeting facilities and rent out lower floors for businesses and events.
The mission of the Independent Order of the Odd Fellows is to improve and elevate the character of mankind, to provide community aid and to promote goodwill through universal fraternity.
The first floor of the Odd Fellows building was home to Colonel T.J. Smith’s bookstore and stationery shop when it opened. The colonel was a Smiths Grove native and a notable public servant, a veteran commander from the Spanish American war, and a local businessman.
Students attending Western Kentucky Normal School would buy their textbooks at T.J. Smith’s. Advertised in the Park City Daily Newspaper as “CBSOPF,” it was the “cheap bookstore off Fountain Park.” It was the largest bookstore in southern Kentucky at the time.
The face of the Odd Fellows building is made of original Bowling Green limestone. Constructed of rough ashlar stone, visitors notice the unusual bowed windows. Plus the International Order of Odd Fellows symbol and dedication plaque sit atop the building in the center.
Find out more by visiting the Downtown Heritage Walk website.