165th Anniversary Celebration
On January 1, 1856, Alma Lodge #523 was founded here in Johnstown, PA. Since that day we have proudly served our community and opened our doors for generations of members. In celebration of this historic year, we are taking a look back at our history in 2021. Throughout the year our Lodge Secretary Ed Sheets is putting together some special graphics honoring our Lodge's history, including a spotlight on Noble Grand's throughout the years and other historic moments for our Lodge. We will also take a close look at Alma Hall itself. These graphics are being posted on our Facebook page and will be posted on this page as well. If you have any suggestions for graphics or have any cool historic Lodge memorabilia that you would like to share, please contact the Lodge office.
WHY ARE WE KNOWN AS ODD FELLOWS?
There are many different ideas on the name, but the most likely reason originated in England in the 18th Century. During this time it was unheard of for non aristrocratic people to organize aid fraternities. The few that were brave and smartenough to do so were known as "odd fellows". The name was also given because of theircommitment to helping the less fortunate. Those lessons are still tought to this day with the principles of benevolence and charity.
HOW DID THE I.O.O.F GET STARTED?
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows was founded in Baltimore, Maryland on April 26, 1819. Thomas Wildey & John Welsh met and discovered that they were both Odd Fellows in England. The two men worked together to establish the Order in America, with more emphasis on service to the community. The first meeting of the I.O.O.F took place at the Seven Stars Inn in Baltimore. (See Above)
WHO ARE SOME FAMOUS ODD FELLOWS?
HISTORY OF ALMA LODGE No. 523
Alma Lodge #523 was founded in Johnstown on January 1, 1856. Alma Lodge was formed through a combination of five different lodges located throughout Johnstown, the oldest being Conemaugh Lodge No. 191 which was founded in 1846. The First Noble Grand was Jacob Campbell who was an important man not only in the Odd Fellows, but also in politics in Pennsylvania.
HISTORY OF ALMA HALL
Alma Lodge has been located in Historic Alma Hall since August 30, 1884. Alma Hall was the first four story building in Johnstown and the building has housed attorneys, doctors, and many other retail stores along with hosting William F. Packer Encampment.
THE JOHNSTOWN FLOOD OF 1889
Alma Lodge and Alma Hall had an important impact on the flood. Many people took shelter in the buildings strong foundation and support. Heroes emerged in the building including Dr. W.E. Matthews who helped those who needed medical attention while suffering from three cracked ribs. Following the flood the lodge was used to house refugees as well as a headquarters to dispense relief. Alma Hall was one of four buildings in Downtown Johnstown to survive the flood.
The Lodge is included in a walking tour of Johnstown which can be found here.
THE LODGE ON FILM
Fans of the film Slap Shot, which was filmed in Johnstown, know that several scenes were filmed in downtown Johnstown. The lodge building, specifically the old Lodge sign, can be seen in the background during a scene in central park. In the image above, you can see it above actor Paul Newman as he gets out of his car. The parade scene at the end of the movie was filmed on Main Street in front of the lodge building, but the building is not seen.
ALMA LODGE TODAY
Today, the lodge and the hall are still in use and thriving. Over the past few years the lodge has seen a new increase in membership and more outreach into the community. The addition of new ideas and activities makes the future look bright for Alma Lodge with new members and new service. If you are interested in seeing what we have to offer, call the office for more information.