Odd Fellows list historic historic temple in San Francisco for sale

Beaux Arts building contains skeletons used in fraternal organization’s ceremonies

Odd Fellows List Historic Temple in SF’s Mid-Market
Odd Fellow Peter Sellers with 26 7th Street (Odd Fellows, Google Maps, Getty)

The Independent Order of Odd Fellows will move its ritual skeletons out of a century-old building in San Francisco, after putting it on the market for an undisclosed price.

The fraternal order has listed its six-story Odd Fellows Temple at 26 7th Street, in Mid-Market, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The historic landmark, designed by G.A. Dodge in 1909, replaced a larger Victorian meeting hall blown up to stop the fires destroying the city after the 1906 earthquake.

The Odd Fellows decided to put the building at Seventh and Market streets on the market because of declining membership and increasing crime on the street below.

The Beaux Arts building, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is now home to mostly artists and art groups who lease all but two IOOF lodge rooms. It contains its original elevator, which requires an operator.

CVS closed its ground-floor store two years ago, but has a lease for three more years, according to the listing.

“This is an excellent opportunity for an investor to own a historic landmark building located at the intersection of South of Market and the Civic Center,” Colliers, which represents the Odd Fellows in the sale, said in the listing, which doesn’t disclose the price.

Peter Sellars, an Odd Fellow, organization historian and the building’s manager for 26 years, told the Chronicle “it’s a multimillion-dollar building.”

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The 60,000-square-foot building was officially put up for sale in February last year, he said, adding, “We’ve kept it low profile.” He said prospective buyers made two offers, but the Odd Fellows decided they were too low.

The Odd Fellows began building a temple on that corner in 1880, said Sellars. The building, with a clock tower and spires, was dedicated four years later. It was replaced by the current building in 1909.

The temple, which contained nine formal lodge rooms, was used by San Francisco’s then 36 lodges. 

Today that number is down to eight with a total of about 1,100 members, about a quarter of the Odd Fellows’ national membership, Sellars, 80, said.

When the building is sold, the tenants, all of whom have long-term leases, will stay, he said. The Odd Fellows, who are seeking another location, will move out.

Over the decades, the building has starred in movies and TV shows, including “Big Sur,” a 2013 cinema retelling of Jack Kerouac’s novel; “The Evidence,” a 2006 TV series with Martin Landau; and “Contractor’s Routine,” a 2011 movie about a man who fantasizes about committing violent crimes, and a mentor who prevents them.

Sellars said he’s not looking forward to clearing out more than a century’s worth of Odd Fellows memorabilia, including hats, masks, photographs, paintings, documents. And skeletons — which represent mortality and are used in secret Odd Fellows initiation ceremonies.

— Dana Bartholomew

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