An ongoing renovation of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows lodge in Carpentersville aims to return the fraternal organization to its historic roots in the village, but with a modern twist.
Carpentersville-based Century Lodge #492 has spent the last few months renovating the building, a project that cost nearly $200,000 and turned up a secret door, a staircase and a three-plated window with the Coca-Cola logo on it.
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"Nobody knew that door was there," said Louie Kloepper, who handles the lodge's public relations.
The lodge decided to hang onto its history by keeping the door and is preserving it by putting glass around it. The window, meanwhile, is being stored in the basement.
The lodge dates back to 1877, when it was called the Carpenter Store Building.
Constructed by J.A. Carpenter, the founder of Carpentersville, it once housed the W.H. Schwartz and C.O. Dry Goods Store and Groceries in one storefront, and the Snorke and Hendrickson Hardware store in the other one, according to "Dundee Township Moments Frozen in Time," by Phil Aleo. Today, one storefront is empty while the other is home to Baker's Guitars.
The lodge bought and moved into the building in 1900 and has been there ever since. At almost 113 years old, the order is the oldest organization in the village, Carpentersville Village President Ed Ritter said.
The Independent Order of Odd Fellows is a fraternal organization that originated in England and stresses faith and charity work. Locally, the order was instrumental in providing breakfast to the children and families participating in Shop with a Cop in Dundee Township, a program that takes less fortunate families Christmas shopping with local law enforcement.
Century Lodge 492 has 100 men and 20 women -- who belong to the sister group called the Rebekahs -- and eight boys in the Odd Fellows' youth organization.
Famous Odd Fellows include President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Charlie Chaplin.
The work at the lodge started around the end of June and included installing new windows on the storefronts, putting blue and maroon awnings around the windows -- some with the order's three rings that symbolize friendship, love and truth -- and removing aluminum siding from the exterior.
"We wanted to restore it to the 1800s, but we also wanted to have our own touch to it," Kloepper said of the lodge. "Kind of like what (Tom Roeser) is doing with his (nearby Otto Engineering) buildings, but we wanted to take it up one step."
Once the siding was set aside, workers discovered the door, stairway, and three-plated glass window with the Coca-Cola logo hidden inside the stairway.
Interior renovations were limited to a fresh coat of paint and new cabinets, said Richard "Smiley" Hecker, of Carpentersville. Hecker is a lodge trustee responsible for letting people in and out of the lodge and for maintaining its building.
"I'm a 20-year member. I'm very proud of this lodge," Hecker said, adding that the work will leave an important legacy for his 13-year-old grandson, Damien Cantu.
"I brought him in and he's worked on the building since he was a kid, and this is all he's ever wanted was to become an Odd Fellow."
The project is about 90 percent complete and the lodge, where possible, used some of its own members to do the work. The renovations are expected to be finished by mid-September, said Kloepper, a retired East Dundee police officer, Carpentersville native and Lake in the Hills resident.