The half century after the Civil War has been called the Golden Age of Fraternalism, where millions of Americans joined social, religious, public service and self-improvement groups. Groups like the Freemasons, Knights of Columbus, the Elks and the Knights of Pythias are represented in the fraternal boom. Early Spokane, first settled in the 1870s, was fertile ground for these groups.
One of the fraternal clubs that developed quickly in the newly settled Western United States was the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, part of a movement that started in England. The Odd Fellows first met in Spokane in 1880 in an early wood-framed Masonic Hall. The origin of the name “Odd Fellows” is murky, but it likely came from the many disparate blue-collar trades of the original founders, who prided themselves in the oft-mocked name. Requirements for membership included belief in a “supreme being” and possessing good moral character. No one engaged in the “liquor business” would be eligible.
The cornerstone for a new Odd Fellows temple was laid for Jan. 1, 1909, at 1015 W. First Ave. Architect Albert Held added terra cotta details to the facade not found on the neighboring Madison Hotel. The first floor was rented out for retail space, while the second and third floors were dedicated to lodge activities.
Spokane’s Masons and the Elks were the top organizations in the state, larger by some measures than fellow lodges in Seattle and Tacoma, followed closely by the Odd Fellows. When the Odd Fellows opened their doors on West First, the three organizations’ temples were within a few blocks of each other.
From 1909 to the early 1940s, the first floor retail space was occupied by the Turnbull Undertakers, Herring-Hall-Marvin Safe Company and the Riley Candy Company, which moved out in 1943 or 1944. The Spokane Little Theater, a community theater troupe, used the Odd Fellows for a few years between 1937 and into the 1940s.
The main entrance for IOOF members was in the middle of the building front, leading directly to a daunting set of stairs climbing to the wood-paneled second and third floor rooms.
Around 1943, the back room of former retail space was turned into a dance hall, reportedly at the request of local high school students who wanted a place to dance where no alcohol was served. A soda fountain and snack bar were added. The dance hall was called the Three Links Club and, later, the Hi-Nite club, catering to the 18-and-over crowd from 1945 to 1956. The Spokesman-Review reported that 500 young people showed up for the opening of the Hi-Nite’s 1948 season.
The Odd Fellows lodge continually used the building for meetings and social events from its opening, through the Great Depression, World War II and the slow decline of fraternalism until 1997, when they sold the building and the group moved.
Since the sale, the building has been largely unchanged over the last two decades of private ownership. Terraced seating was added in 2001 to the main ballroom on the second floor and the space was renamed Centerstage, hosting dinner theater, meetings, parties, and concerts. It’s been renamed as Ella’s Theater.
The dance hall on the main floor is still in place and used as a meeting hall and event space. It’s now called the Montvale Hall.
The ball room on the third floor, stretching across the 50-foot width of the building, was once a night club and live music venue called Ella’s Supper Club from the early 2000s until it was shut down in 2008. It is available for events or rehearsal space.
Developer and businessman Jerry Dicker and his wife, Patty, purchased the building in 2015, part of their investments in the arts scene of Spokane. Their staff is managing the building as an event center, renting out the various spaces. The main ballroom on the second floor is popular for weddings.
Since 2015, the Dickers have made a major investment in Spokane’s entertainment district, including the purchases of the Bing Crosby Theater, the Montvale and Ruby Hotels, the old Music City building and the former home of Dempsey’s Brass Rail, now the location of Incrediburger & Eggs. Dicker has also purchased the former Red Lion River Inn, now called the Ruby River Inn.
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