From Dell Rapids' Attic - History
Historic Odd Fellows Home
The Odd Fellows Home, located in the northwest part of town, built with local quartzite, and dedicated in 1911, has become a historic landmark for citizens of Dell Rapids.
The idea of building a state Odd Fellows Home was first suggested in 1892. In May 1896, at the annual session of the Grand Lodge held at Hot springs, a special committee presented a resolution for the election of a Board of Trustees for a proposed Odd Fellows Home. Their goal: to receive donations of funds and other gifts.
At the annual session the following year, a total of $734.45 in donations toward the building fund had been raised. Donations were voluntary until 1904, when the Grand Lodge Session assessed a per capita tax of 25 cents for subordinates and 10 cents for Rebekah Lodge members.
Deciding where to build the state Odd Fellows Home was a tough decision for the Board of Trustees. Many state-wide lodges presented many reasons why it should be built in their city or town. It finally came down to five locations: Sioux Falls, Hot Springs, Lake Preston, Big Stone, and Dell Rapids.
After painstaking and careful deliberation, the Board of Trustees decided that Dell Rapids had made the most attractive offer. Dell Rapids agreed to provide 32 acres valued at $6400 or that amount in cash; all the granite for the building except trim or $2000 in cash; exempt the Home from gas and water assessments up to $2000, and provide free tuition for children living at the home. Lodge #8 of Dell Rapids, speaking through its Home committee, with Henry Robertson as chairman, promised the state I.O.O.F. that the city would subscribe $9000 toward the Odd Fellows Home fund, and in addition, donate $2000 worth of gas and water, enough to last five years.
In 1909, after Dell Rapids was chosen, the Board of Trustees went about to select a favorable site in the community. They found a desirable location northwest of the city consisting of seventy acres of rich agricultural land in a good state of cultivation that they bought for $8750 - $125.00 per acre.
By 1910, $32,029.82 had been raised, and construction began that spring. The first ground was broken on May 22, and the cornerstone was laid on July 14. On May 17, 1911, a railroad train of twelve cars, crowded to the limit, arrived from Sioux Falls for the dedication. A parade formed south of the depot with an estimated crowd of over 3000 marchers and bands. Over 6000 gathered on the grounds of the new Odd Fellows Home which had been built of native pink stone supplied from the local quarry.
The building of the Odd Fellows Home cost $35,111.16, as completed in 1911. It was strictly fire proof with the stone walls reinforced with one foot of hard burnt hollow brick laid together with corrugated metal strips. The corridor and cross walls were built with solid, one-foot-thick vitrified bricks. The splendid two-story building measured forty-four feet wide and one hundred-twenty feet long. It contained 51 rooms, all steam heated.
Each Rebekah Lodge in the state was asked to contribute $50 toward furnishing the Home. The Coralyn Rebekah Lodge #21 of Dell Rapids was the largest contributor, giving over $500.
Through state-wide cooperation from the various I.O.O.F. lodges, the purpose of the Odd Fellows Home was faithfully carried out. It became a place of retirement of the Odd Fellow and Rebekah members. Orphans of members were also welcomed. The 1912 Dell Rapids Journal lists 19 children, four I.O.O.F. brothers, and one Rebekah sister as residents. Between 1911 and 1935, the Odd Fellows Home had provided “a home” for 100 children and 150 aged people.
The domestic work and the outside chores were shared by all residents – orphans and retirees. The girls, when old enough to do so, helped with the “household” chores while the boys did outdoor work. As the years went by and the number of orphans decreased, outside help was hired for laundry, kitchen, and cleaning work.
At one time there were 171 acres of land under cultivation with substantial barns and other outbuildings all connected with the Home. On this farm was a herd of Brown Swiss cattle that supplied the residents with all the necessary dairy products. An annual herd of hogs and a sufficient number of chickens supplied them with pork, eggs, and poultry for the tables. A large garden and orchard was maintained, and thousands of jars of fruits and vegetables were canned. Over the years, the Odd Fellows Home offered many successful opportunities, both for their residents’ and their families’ enjoyment and well-being.
In 1959, twenty-four rooms and a sun porch were added to the original building. In 1964, the Odd Fellows Home was opened to all residents of the public, not just to the I.O.O.F. members. By 1985, a major remodeling job was completed and met with government regulations. There was room for approximately 50 residents for intermediary care.
The building and 28 acres of property, once on the outskirts of the community and now located in a quiet neighborhood surrounded by many beautiful trees and open scenery, was purchased by the Dell Rapids Community Hospital in 1998. It continued as an assisted and congregate care facility for seniors until it closed in 2003.
In 2004, the building and a part of the grounds were sold to a private contractor and plans are to remodel the facility and turn it into apartments. The remaining unsold land will be used by the local hospital and clinic for future expansion plans.