Sunday, March 30, 2008


This morning I ran into my friend Dennis, who's been renovating his coachhouse for the last 15 years from objects scavenged from local alleys. He gives generous tours on request, detailing the beach glass he and his daughters mosaiced into the panes of a discarded French door, or the drawer pulls he's fashioned from the burls of trees on his friends' Mitch and Jacqui's property. He cooks on an industrial stove he found behind a closed restaurant, and he shaves in front of a vanity with doors made of wooden chess boards. I could go on, but I'd never do it justice.

When I saw him this morning he'd been on a salvaging trek, and he was carrying a pair of petite wooden crutches, possibly from before the turn of the century. They'll likely become the balusters of his staircase or a detail over one of the dining room windows, which once resided in the Chicago Historical Society.

Dennis was also carrying a small china gravy boat and two cream pitchers, spied in a box behind the Oddfellows Hall, one of the most strange and coveted buildings in our neighborhood.

When John and I first moved in, the Oddfellows still ran the place, meeting in their long maroon robes or throwing occasional pancake breakfasts. Since then the building has changed hands a few times. For a short time it was home to the Iglesia de los Santos Muertes. The founder drove a repurposed ice-cream truck with a skeleton in a long blond wig in the passenger seat. Their tenure in the building was short.

It's now in the hands of one of our neighbors, who's planning a major green renovation that will preserve the integrity of the front facade but actually make the interior liveable. On Dennis's tip, I now have my own piece of Oddfellows history, the sweet ephemera pictured here. I picked up five more sets for my neighbors, who also prize the building--and Dennis--as neighborhood wonders.


Diana Sudyka said...

hey wait! i prize that building too. gimme some ephemera!

Christy said...

Get in line, sister! (You know -- I actually went back to the alley a couple hours later to get what might be left, but it was already gone, gone, gone. Gotta get up early to beat the salvagers these days!)

LazyMF said...

Very neat. Do the items have any Oddfellows markings?

Christy said...

The china is all stamped, but alas, no specific references to the Oddfellows. Some friends and I were fantasizing about group dinners, though, where each Oddfellow had his own cream pitcher or gravy boat, since that was the majority of what was found in the box.

All the china was made in Pennsylvania, but I don't recall the manufacturers' names -- I'm currently in Maine visiting my folks, so I'll try to remember to post about this when I get back.

Diana Sudyka said...

Some neighborhood watch you are, watching from Maine! What are you trying to pull?

Gimme ephemera.

rachel said...

hey, we're odd fellows, covet ephemeral & are local. can we get ourselves some of that history too?