by Donna Klein
Second Floor – Rooms to Rent and the Odd Fellows Banquet Facility
We’ve gotten some background information, visited the first floor and the basement. Next, we headed for the second floor. A massive stair case leads directly to the third floor, with a landing at the second floor. I asked Mike if he ever counted the steps. He did. There are 42 steps from the first floor to the third floor. Coincidentally, the number 42 has figured prominently at various times in his life.
The second floor was used as rooms for rent (six total) until the Odd Fellowsbought the building in 1910. At that time it was turned into the Odd Fellows banquet hall. They had keno and bingo games in there until the state cracked down on gambling in the 1950s.
As we explored the banquet room, I noticed the wavy glass in the windows. Mike told me it was the original glass. Most of the windows in the building have the original glass in them.
We moved into the kitchen area. I asked Mike about the skull candle. He told me that every Odd Fellows temple had its own human skull. The story goes that Odd Fellows’ humanitarianism would lead to some of them donating their bodies to science. Once the school was done with the cadaver, the skull or other bones would be sent back to the lodge so the member could continue to be a part of it. The second floor banquet area was as far as women were allowed to go. Only male members of the society could enter the Hall.
The final part of the second floor we explored was the balcony. It was added when the Odd Fellows purchased the building in 1910 and partially obscures the original decorative brickwork, but it is a wonderful space! You can see downtown and the waterfront. Mike and Kate told me they sat out there and listened to music from the Brown Trout Festival and the weekly concerts at the band shell.
Third Floor – Odd Fellows Meeting Hall
We climbed the final stairs to the third floor and were greeted with the door to the anteroom. This door had a peep hole where the member would provide the needed information to move into the anteroom. There is a pocket door on the opposite side of the anteroom. Both doors were never to be open at the same time in order to preserve the sanctity of the meeting hall. The anteroom was known as the “room of reflection.” Inside the anteroom is a hook for a lamp from the days before electricity!
As the Grand Hall unfolded in front of me, the first thing that struck me was the beautiful arched windows lining the Washington Avenue side of the building! The room is large and tall. All ceremonies in the Grand Hall were done by candlelight, oil lamp, or torch in the days before electricity. Once the building was wired, a dimmer switch was installed in the Grand Hall. This was used during their scripted ceremonies.
The hall would have had a throne for the High Priest at the west end of the room. He would be by two wardens. The Chief Patriarch would sit at the east wall and be flanked by two wardens. The north and south walls were lined with normal chairs for members. This left the majority of the room open for the rituals and ceremonies. These rituals and ceremonies may seem a bit silly to some, but the purpose of them was to focus on self-reflection and doing good in this world.
On the other side of the coat/costume room is what I call the winter porch. It is the little room above the second story balcony. It offers wonderful views of downtown and the waterfront. You can see the decorative brickwork from the original construction.
The Future of the Centennial Building
I asked Mike and Kate about what their current vision is for the building. They’ve applied to be on the National Register of Historic Places. The building has passed the state test and is now awaiting news at the federal level. They’d like to see the first floor as a space that is open to the public. They have plans to convert the second and third floors into living space, one unit per floor. I was drawn in by their dreams for this beautiful space and am looking forward to see how they get their goals!
The Lake Huron Discovery Tour
The Route 23 Heritage Route organization is holding the Lake Huron Discovery Tour this weekend – Friday through Monday, October 9 -12. Many events are planned along the Sunrise Side. The Centennial Building partnered with Recollections to present a Heritage Celebration. This free event starts at 1 p.m. in the front room of the building located on the corner where First Avenue and Washington Avenue intersect Chisholm Street (US 23). Nathanael Koenig presents a 45 minute set of classical and jazz guitar featuring selections from his debut recording, “Along the Way.” The fashion show starts at 2 and features fashions from the Victorian and Edwardian eras; 1876 through 1919. Seating is limited, so we recommend getting there in time for the music and stay through the fashion show! If you are taking in other events around downtown Alpena, be on the lookout for Recollections models. They will be out and about from 11 a.m. through 1 p.m. We look forward to seeing you there!