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Catalog Number WF 6342.007
Caption I.O.O.F. Hall/Opera House - destroyed by fire
Description Fire destroyed the Anacortes Opera House at 1111 6th Street on June 30, 1981. It was formerly the I.O.O.F. Hall. These eight images were taken just after the fire occurred.

NOTE: ANACORTES AMERICAN article for the week of July 8-14, 1981 reads:

"Youths admit cause
Historic building burns
Two Anacortes youths were taken into custody last week following a spectacular blaze on Tuesday, June 30 which totally destroyed a historic city landmark and damaged a nearby motel and several local homes.

The three boys, aged 10-12, reportedly admitted playing with matches and candles at the fire site just prior to the start of the blaze.

The fire started around 2 p.m. inside an all-wood structure near 6th and O known locally as the old "Opera House." That building, completely leveled by the fire, had been used in recent years for storage.

Also damaged was the adjacent San Juan Motel which had 13 of its 24 rooms damaged by fire, smoke and/or water. Motel owner Ron Foor, also owner of the Opera House, said Monday he hopes half the damaged rooms will be rentable again "within two weeks."

Also damaged by heat from the blaze were several homes located across the alley from the Opera House. One home sustained major exterior damage when the heat curled vinyl siding.

Total estimated damage, according to Anacortes Fire Chief Cecil Little was $250,000.

The Opera-era House had served as a warehouse for several decades, most recently for Anaco TV and Appliance, Bud Rock, and Foor himself. Little said Anaco lost about $50,000 worth of appliances.

Foor said he lost some mattresses and about 30 yards of carpeting, while Rock's losses included some lumber and personal possessions.

The Skagit County prosecutor will decide whether to bring charges against the three boys, who were released to their parents."

Message under a photograph by John Fortmeyer says, "With heat so intense it could be felt a block away, a roaring fire levels the historic old "Opera House" in Anacortes within an hour and a half on June 30. ..."

The I.O.O.F. was founded in England in the 1600s to do good works, one of the few "safety nets" available to families in time of need. Its members were so-named because it was considered odd for men to organize and give aid to those in need. The first lodge in the U. S. formed in Baltimore in 1819. W. H. Burdon organized the Anacortes branch of the I.O.O.F. Born in England in 1844 where the I.O.O.F. originated, Burdon was a member by 1866. He and his family immigrated to Canada in 1871 and came to Washington Territory two years later; they settled first in Port Madison and then Whatcom, where Burdon worked for the Bellingham Bay Coal Company. In 1876, he and his wife Jane moved their family to March's Point, Fidalgo Island. Both William and Jane had a reputation for public service and generosity. The roads William built on Fidalgo Island were "recognized among the finest roads in the state of Washington."

The Oddfellows used the upper floor as their meeting hall and the lower floor was used as a theater. In December 1902, SEBRING'S SKAGIT COUNTY ILLUSTRATED (Mt. Vernon) stated, "It is claimed that Anacortes, in proportion to her population, is the strongest city in the U. S. as to Fraternal orders; and it is very certain that all of the well-known societies have strong lodges here; the representatives of the I.O.O.F. especially showing activity and progress in the erection last year of an opera house, the upper floors of which over the auditorium form lodge and refreshment rooms which are very attractive." On 3-22-1906, the ANACORTES AMERICAN reported that an addition was being built on the rear of the building because the Opera House, "needs more stage room and scenery room for traveling shows have much bigger sets now." On 4-5-1906, the paper reported the addition was completed. The building hosted many traveling variety shows and vaudeville acts. It is very possible that one of the two theater curtains in the museum's collection came from the building. See Museum Accession #2000.70.02. In February 1953, the paper reported that the Oddfellows had moved into a new meeting hall at 12th and O. The 6th Street building burned down in 1981. The Rebekahs, a special order of the Oddfellows, was created especially for women in 1851; this made the fraternity the first to offer membership to women. The name came from the Old Testament where Rachel drew water from the well for man and life; she was the protectress of the indispensable water and symbolically of life. For the Oddfellows, she was a symbol of readiness and decisiveness.

Known as the "Three-link Society", the links stood for Friendship, Love, Truth, all intertwined. It is often a symbol found on the gravestones of Oddfellows, where a small "F,L,T" will be found inside each of the links.

The I.O.O.F. contributed much to Anacortes in the years before social "safety nets" existed. Men paid a membership fee, almost an early form of life insurance, which then funded the lodge's work. When a member died, the lodge performed his funeral service, provided his coffin and monument, and buried him -- usually in a cemetery they had founded. Their credo was "We command you to relieve the distressed, bury the dead and educate the orphan," and resulted in their organizing cemeteries across the United States, including many of the first in Skagit County.
Date 1981, July
Collection Wallie Funk Collection
Subjects Place - Anacortes
Credit line Donated by Wallie Funk, Wallie Funk Collection
Place Anacortes, WA
Search Terms I.O.O.F. Hall
6th Street
Object Name Print, Photographic