The Odd Fellows Lodge located on Main Street in Half Moon Bay is undergoing renovations to make it more accessible to those with disabilities.
Accessible bathrooms as well as an elevator are being installed. Some general upkeep is also being taken care of on the 151-year-old building, including replacing the roof. The Odd Fellows expect to continue scheduled programming during the construction.
Chartered in 1868, the Ocean View Lodge is home to one of the oldest organizations operating in Half Moon Bay.
“We want to bring our building into the 21st century in terms of accessibility, health and safety. An elevator will enable us to accomplish this,” said Gary Warhaftig, an Odd Fellows member. “An elevator will truly make our space a more accessible community space for the elderly and disabled.”
The Odd Fellows started in England in 1839 and moved from Europe to the United States in 1890. It initially became well established on the East Coast. The organization migrated west with the Gold Rush in 1848. It took root when fortune seekers arrived in California and realized they had come to a wild frontier.
“Statehood was still a year or two away. The only authority were the grizzly bear and the rattlesnake,” said Joe Brennan, an Odd Fellows member taking the lead on the construction project. “There was no structure so the Odd Fellows said, ‘Let’s get together and form a lodge so we can support each other.’”
The fundamental purposes of the organization were to help one another and support the wives and children of members in case a member was injured or killed.
“That’s why it started in California, and by 1868 a charter was founded right here in Half Moon Bay to do the same thing — to form an association to be both social and support people in need,” said Brennan.
Before retiring, Brennan was the facilities manager for the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco, where he was in charge of the new addition to MOMA. Brennan has taken the lead and is in charge of the construction project on the Odd Fellows building.
“We’re really interested in how we can diversify and include more people. Upstairs we have a 3,000-foot dance floor and we have dances frequently here,” said Warhaftig, “Once we put in the elevator and its fully accessible, then I think it’s really going to blow the top off.”
Along with events and meetings, members want to expand to possibly be a meeting resource space for other nonprofits in the community. “There are very few commercial spaces that can accommodate 220 people in Half Moon Bay,” said Warhaftig.
When Warhaftig got involved four years ago, the Odd Fellows had dwindled to seven members, he said, but today there are more than 100 members on the coast.
“Since we’ve had this rebirth, we have had all these events going on and lots of people in the building,” said Warhaftig, “I don’t think we’ve really even scratched the surface of what’s possible, but one thing we know for sure is that the need is going to keep on increasing. We want to be a positive resource for the community.”
The Odd Fellows are balancing renovation costs with their desire to give scholarships and sponsor social programs.
“We’ve got to figure out how we’re going to be able to afford to make the building accessible and continue to give out the level of grants we want to be able to,” said Warhaftig, “But the building has been around for 151 years and needs to be brought up to date.”
The Lodge plans on dedicating a significant portion of the rents from the building, parts of which are leased to Cafe Society and Personal FX, to pay for it.
“(We’re) just people who want to do good work and like to have fun,” said Warhaftig. “In a way I think we’re kind of a blank canvas, a 150-year-old canvas, but I wonder what the possibility and potential will unlock once this becomes a fully accessible building.”