Editor’s note: The following is an article I wrote that was published in “Healdsburg Living” magazine in 2019. The Odd Fellows building is now in the final phases of planning for a long awaited seismic retrofit, which you will hear more about in the coming months. Hopefully the following will give you a historical context of this iconic building.
Geyserville Planning Committee
Building History: Geyserville’s Odd Fellows Hall
By Paul Connors
The Odd Fellows building at the 3-way stop in Geyserville has been the gathering place for local residents since it was built in 1900. The current occupants, Diavola’s, Locals and the Gun Club, continue to attract locals and visitors alike. I recently met with long time resident Harry Bosworth to learn more about the rich history of this building.
The large two-story building was purchased by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows in 1905, and they have occupied the second floor ever since. Odd Fellows is a civic organization that can trace its roots back to the 1700s in England. Its original purpose was “visit the sick, relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan.”
A previous single-story building on this site burned down and Bernard W. Feldmeyer, a leading citizen of Geyserville, constructed the existing building on the undamaged foundation and walls of the original building. He also added additions at each end of the building to make it longer. Feldmeyer founded the Geyserville water company in 1904 and, along with Julius Stamer, operated the Geyserville Winery, which was established in 1884. The winery, long since gone (a casualty of Prohibition), was located in a building behind the Odd Fellows.
While the Odd Fellows have owned this building and occupied its second story for over a century, the first story was divided into three, and sometimes four, storefronts.They were home to a variety of businesses over the years, including a hardware store, TV repair shop, Greyhound Bus ticket counter, barber shop and, for a short time, a pool hall. Some longtime citizens may remember that the original Bosworth’s hardware store was located here, before moving across the street in 1984.
Since its construction in 1900, there has always been a restaurant or eatery in this building, except for a brief period during the Second World War, when food supplies were scarce. It was a meeting place where residents could catch up over a cup of coffee and a piece of pie or enjoy a cold beer while the children had ice cream or candy.
The southern store fronts, where Diavola’s restaurant and Locals wine shop are located, has been almost continuously occupied, while the north end remained vacant for stretches of time. During the Second World War, a target range was set up in the basement for members of the State Guard to practice their shooting skills. While this only lasted a couple of years, its legacy survives as the inspiration for the name of the Gun Club, which operates above the defunct range today.
While three of the current occupants, Diavola’s, Locals and the Gun Club, are well known, the second floor, where the Odd Fellows hold their meetings, is less visible and for many, more mysterious. A door at the building’s north end opens to a wide, steep staircase with a metal railing in the middle. At the top of the stairs, turning left, a corridor leads to two large rooms of almost equal size, that comprise the entire second story.
The front room has three large windows looking out to the Alexander Valley and Geyser Peak beyond and is where the Odd Fellows hold their meetings. Entering this room, one has the sense for entering a portal to a past era. At the far end of this large carpeted room, antique upholstered chairs are lined up in two rows facing each other, each row dominated by one oversized chair. This is where the Odd Fellows meetings and rituals take place, complete with ceremonial vestments. Faded tapestries and old wood-framed lithographs hang on the walls to illustrate the basic tenets of the Odd Fellows – scenes of “visiting the sick”, “burying the dead”, “educating the orphan” and so forth.
Double doors on the wall across from the windows open into a large banquet room, complete with a stage at one end and a commercial kitchen at the opposite side. There is a handsome dark wood bar, with delicate pendant lights suspended above, that invites you to saddle up to it and slide your hand across the smooth cool wood surface. This large room, with the original brick walls, beautiful wooden floor and intricate tin style ceiling, is as timeless as the front room, but with an almost contemporary retro feel.
Outside, back on Geyserville Avenue, a long black and white banner hangs across the top of this building, announcing an ongoing fundraiser by the Odd Fellows to retrofit this brick building and make it better able to withstand an earthquake. Because the additions added in 1900 are not supported by the original foundation, they have begun to literally sag off of each end, further exacerbating the structural integrity.
While there have been attempts over the years to shore up the building, it has only resulted in temporary, short-term fixes. We hope this current fund-raising effort is successful, and this iconic building will remain standing for another hundred years as a fixture of the Geyserville community.