1912 was an eventful year: Woodrow Wilson defeats William Howard Taft. The Titanic sank, resulting in 1,500 deaths. And there was racial violence in the south, north of Atlanta, Forsyth county - three Black men were arrested and executed for assault. 1,000 African-American county residents forced out.

“In 1912, you [also] had a lot of things going on along Atlanta’s Auburn Avenue,” noted David Y. Mitchell, Executive Director of the Atlanta Preservation Center. “Economic sources were all around, like insurance, grocers, a thriving commercial district anchored by this building.”

The building is the 124-year-old Odd Fellows, commemorated by Booker T. Washington in 1913.

The brick and terra cotta structure comprises the entire northern side of Auburn Avenue between Jesse Hill Jr. Drive and Bell Street.

It is two stories with an adjacent six-story office tower and distinctive heads with African-American features.

“The building spares no expense including the exterior,” added Mitchell. “Alonzo Herndon, Martin Luther King Sr, had offices here - a precursor to the civil rights movement.”

The Odd Fellows Building was suggested by Black newspaper editor Benjamin J. Davis (1870-1945), designed by white Atlanta architect William A. Edwards (1866-1939) and built by Robert E. Pharrow, owner of an African-American construction company.

Despite the Jim Crow era, the two men, Black and white, worked side by side toward completing the structure. 

The Odd Fellows Building restoration is expected to be completed by April of 2025.

The Odd Fellows Building restoration is expected to be completed by April of 2025.

Credit: Jeff Hullinger

For most of the 20th century, the Odd Fellows Building was impactful and important in the community, but it fell on hard times.

“The building, for decades, sat without extensive use,” said Mitchell. “But that has changed.”

Last year, the non-profit Georgia Works purchased the storied building. “We paid $14 million dollars with a capital campaign in 2023,” said Darlene Schultz, President and CEO of Georgia Works. “$5.5 million coming from Governor Kemp’s Office of Planning and Budgeting. QuikTrip also added $500,000 toward the purchase.”

Georgia Works helps men experiencing homelessness, providing housing with transitional work and classes.

Mitchell believes there is a symmetry between the past, present and future, making the Odd Fellows Building a symbol of redemption for historic preservation and providing aid for those in need. “It imprints success, contributing to the community for more than a century, and now fulfilling another purpose.”

The building is being renovated and repurposed by a Savannah restoration company. 

At every turn, original remnants from the 1912 construction, window weights, frames, paint, hardware, doors can be found. 

The Odd Fellows Building restoration is expected to be completed by April of 2025.