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Fraternal order buys old drive-in site for HQ

A building that was once a roller skating rink, bingo hall and flea market in Dundalk has been sold to the Grand Lodge of Maryland Independent Order of Odd Fellows for its new headquarters.

The organization paid $1 million for the 25,500-square-foot building at 7721 Old Battle Grove Road and plans to spend another $1 million to renovate it, said Robert Beatty, the grand secretary of the state of Maryland Order of Odd Fellows. After that, Beatty said, the organization will relocate its headquarters to the building, once the site of the old North Point drive-in theater. The move is expected to occur in early 2011.

The Order of Odd Fellows is a charitable organization that was established in 17th-century England. The group is also known as the “three link fraternity” because of its dedication to friendship, love and truth.

The first Odd Fellows chapter in the U.S. was established in Baltimore on April 26, 1819, the group’s website states.

Maryland’s chapter today has 900 members, Beatty said, and is at 320 S. Highland Ave. in the eastern wedge of Baltimore city. Recently, the group, which has a sponsorship system of membership, has raised money to fund research for juvenile diabetes, cancer and arthritis, Beatty said. The move to the North Point area is hoped to raise the profile of the organization, Beatty said.

In the new, expanded building, the group plans to open a museum that will hold memorabilia from the Order of Odd Fellows dating to the 1800s, Beatty said. That memorabilia has been in storage. The group also plans to open a library.

“We needed more room, so we are moving,” Beatty said. “We need a larger facility to have meetings, open houses and a better place for us to work.”

St. John Properties acquired the 17.5-acre North Point site more than three years ago with the intention to redevelop the project into a mixed-use development. The site has heavy traffic — more than 26,000 vehicles pass by the North Point Boulevard location daily.

“The building is undergoing an extreme makeover and, upon completion, will contain multiple design elements that will approximate the original design of the lodge located near [the group’s old downtown headquarters on] Cathedral Street,” said Paul Thompson, president of Architectural Design Works Inc., the group overseeing planning for the Odd Fellows renovations.

“Our goal is to re-create the dramatic entrance feature that was the signature element of the downtown Baltimore City building, as well as closely replicate the atrium lobby, complete with the chandelier. The organization has Baltimore roots extending nearly 200 years and it is important to respect and pay homage to the past.”