Historic Preservation Month: Odd Fellow Hall, Big Horn, Wyoming

For Historic Preservation Month we want to, once again, take a look at some of the places on the National Registry of Historic Places in Sheridan County. Sheridan does not have a monopoly on historic sites in Sheridan County. Fifteen of the twenty-seven sites on the National Register are outside of the Sheridan city limits. One of those sites is the Odd Fellows Hall in Big Horn, Wyoming. The two-story, white, wooden, false-front building has stood on Main Street since 1894. The Odd Fellows Hall is one of the few false front buildings left in Big Horn. On a false front building the front wall extends above the roof and the sides of the building to create a more impressive façade. These types of building are an iconic part of the American West’s architecture because newly created towns wanted to give a sense of urban scale that could be found in cities back east.

If you look closely you can still see the golden rings painted on the front of the building. Also note the false front on the building.
Photo courtesy of Bob and Maureen Aksamit. Taken April 2022.

Big Horn was officially established in 1882, but there had been settlers in the area for about five years prior. During the early years of the town, Big Horn boasted a growing population, brick factory, and numerous businesses. When Sheridan County broke from Johnson County, Big Horn made a bid for the county seat, but lost to Sheridan. The railroad came to the area in1892 and stopped in Sheridan not Big Horn. Some people even moved to Sheridan once it became clear that the railroad would be going there instead. One of these people was Henry Coffeen who went on to be the county representative at the state constructional convention and later Wyoming’s US Congressman. While Sheridan continued to grow, Big Horn did not. However, it remains a thriving town that serves as a community center for those living in the Goose Creek Valley. According to the US Census Bureau, the population is currently 483 of the county’s 31,646 people.

Another view of the Odd Fellows Hall in Big Horn. The hall had an addition that you can see at the rear of the building.
Photo courtesy of Bob and Maureen Aksamit. Taken April 2022.

Big Horn’s Odd Fellows Hall was built in 1894 by the local chapter of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, an international fraternal organization. They held their meetings on the second floor until they joined the Sheridan chapter in 1949. The local Rebekahs, the women’s auxiliary of the Odd Fellows, took over the building until the 1970s, when the cost of maintenance became too much. The building served as a community gathering place for dances, dinners, and festivals especially in the 1930s and 1940s. On the application to be added to the National Register in 1980, the authors said that “The Odd Fellows Hall has been particularly well preserved and virtually unaltered because its use was primarily limited to that of a meeting hall for almost 70years.”[1]You can still drive by the white, two-story, wooden building bearing the three interconnected rings of the Odd Fellows in Big Horn today.

To learn more about other sites on the National Register of Historic Places in Sheridan County, click here.

[1]Odd Fellows Hall National Register of Historic Places Application. Retrieved April 5, 2022, fromhttps://wyoshpo.wyo.gov/index.php/programs/national-register/wyoming-listings/view-full-list/778-odd-fellows-hall

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