Archive for the ‘Odd Fellows’ Category
The James Ridgely Monument was commissioned by the Sovereign Grand Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows. Designed by artist Alexander Doyle and completed in 1885, the statue stands in West Baltimore’s Harlem Square.
James Ridgely joined the American Odd Fellows in 1829, ten years after the North American chapter was founded by Thomas Wildey. As a well-educated man and member of the Maryland Bar, Ridgley quickly moved through the ranks of the friendly society. He was elected Grand Sire, the highest position of the Order, in 1936. In 1941 he stepped down to become Grand Secretary, a post he held for the remainder of his life.
I haven’t been to the monument yet, but I have seen it from a taxi. When I get the the chance I’ll travel down there and photograph the statue, as well as any adjoining plaques or inscriptions. Hopefully this will help confirm the information I’ve read about Mr. Ridgely.
1500 Edmonson Avenue (Street View)
GPS: 39° 17′ 45.70″ N 76° 38′ 31.70″ W
N Broadway & E Fayette Street, south one block (Street View)
GPS: 39° 17′ 36.19″ N 76° 35′ 38.24″ W
The American charter for the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was established in 1819 by Thomas Wildey. The British-born Wildey was a member of the altruistic organization as a youth in his home country, moving through its ranks with determination and brevity. A blacksmith by trade, the bullish figure left for the United States in his early twenties taking his restlessness along with him. Upon arriving in North America, in 1817, he found that sentiment towards the British was low, the War of 1812 not entirely forgiven. The boisterous and outgoing Wildey found work easily, yet had trouble gaining the companionship he desired. Following a conversation with John Welch, a fellow countryman, the two realized they were both part of the Odd Fellows fraternity. Wildey proposed putting an ad in the newspaper soliciting Baltimore’s existing members. Four men showed up at the initial conference and the seeds of America’s IOOF were planted. Thomas Wildey became the order’s first presiding officer and worked tirelessly to expand the group. His only occupation after 1819 was the Odd Fellows, and he sank great portions of his own money into the project. The other men involved in the early stages of the IOOF were certainly more literate and eloquent, but the frequently over-bearing Wildey and his unyielding enthusiasm point to him as the body’s true founding father. He relinquished his leadership post in 1825, yet continued to work for his cause until his last breath. Traveling from town to town, Wildey established Odd Fellows Lodges in practically every state incorporated at the time. He died in 1861 and is buried in Green Mount Cemetery.
The 52-foot tall superstructure sits on the crest of Washington Hill. The top of the marble monument depicts the widow Charity holding a child while another rests at her foot. Rich with the fraternal order of Odd Fellows imagery, the statue and spire pay a telling tribute to the organizations founder. Four bronze relief plaques and various inscriptions adorn the base of the memorial. The combination of beauty and gravity make this one of the more monumental fabrications in Baltimore. Dedicated in 1865, the column is the work of architect Edward F. Durang.