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HistoriCorps Helps Breath New Life into IOOF Hall

Although the miners have long since disappeared, and the American River waterway is now cherished for recreational possibilities more than mineral riches, remnants of the California Gold Rush can still be found throughout the mother lode. One such vestige at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park in Coloma, California is the community hall built by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF).  Between March 21 and April 9, through a partnership with California State Parks and Historicorps, the lodge, one of the oldest fraternal organization buildings in the state, received some much needed deferred maintenance. 

HistoriCorps provides volunteers of all skill levels with a hands-on experience preserving historic structures on public lands across America and has been working with California State Parks for many years, most recently at Bodie and Monterrey State Historic Parks. Through a Master Agreement put together by State Parks staff, Historicorps helped with the restoration of the iconic IOOF hall with 3 weeklong work sessions beginning March 21, March 28 and April 4. Volunteers fixed the dilapidated clapboard siding, priming and painting the exterior, and performing other work to make the building safe and functional.

The Coloma Lodge #27 of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was organized on August 21, 1854. The property for the hall was deeded to the Odd Fellows by James Johnson and his wife, and the lodge was built in 1854 under the guidance of J.C. Brown.  The state acquired the property in 1959.

The building has been closed for several years for safety reasons. Recently State Parks allocated funding to begin the process of cleaning up and restoring the building. In the fall of 2020, a hazardous waste contractor removed unhealthy and unsafe materials, mitigated mold, and sanitized the building.

The Greek-revival style building is among the oldest IOOF halls in El Dorado County and stands as one of the oldest fraternal halls in the State. In addition to being a meeting place for the IOOF Coloma Lodge #27, the Rebekah’s (a Fraternal Order and Service Organization affiliated with the IOOF), the Masons and the Grange, the lower floor of the building was once used as a Baptist Church as well as a Baptist and Methodist Sunday School and served as the school in 1919 when the schoolhouse was destroyed by fire. In more recent times the hall played host to community breakfasts and meetings and accommodated Santa during Christmas in Coloma.

HistoriCorps is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit. Volunteers work with HistoriCorps field staff to learn preservation skills and put those skills to work saving historic places that have fallen into disrepair. HistoriCorps works to ensure America’s cultural and historical resources will exist for generations to come.

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