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New, discreet Bellingham bar and music space is a nod to history

Odd Fellows Temple Room at The Orion provides a big space to gather at a slower pace

Lucy Swenson
Lucy Swenson (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)
By Jemma Alexander News Intern

The Odd Fellows Building on East Holly Street has always been a place to gather. From sports to brotherhood, and now cocktails and live jazz, that legacy continues with the opening of Odd Fellows Temple Room at The Orion.  

Built in 1906, the building’s original occupant was Bellingham’s first YMCA. In 1942, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, an international fraternal organization, purchased the building and maintained residency into the 1970s. 

Since then, businesses have come and gone in the commercial space, until The Orion and its astronomy-themed cocktails settled in. While The Orion provides a hip and vibrant space to meet, chat and get a drink, the business’s expansion, found through the double doors just behind the bar, takes a more retro approach. 

photo  Paintings with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows iconography line the walls of the bar. Through his research into the fraternal organization, bar owner Jonny McIntyre found the Odd Fellows are an open group, asking for minimal yearly dues and focusing on building orphanages, providing funerals and even giving their members free lodging throughout the country. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Once a YMCA gymnasium, faded paint lines the wooden floors and the ceilings are high enough to dunk a basketball. Old church pews and cedar-slab tables creak as patrons take their seats. Wood tones and warm lighting shining on the hand-painted murals give the big space a cozy feel. Where The Orion launches patrons into the dark blue of outer space, the Odd Fellow Temple Room brings them back down to the ground.  

The Orion began renting out the extra space in 2021, owner Jonny McIntyre said. He didn’t want the room to have the same theme as The Orion. He looked to previous occupants, and the name of the building, for inspiration.  

McIntyre’s vision honors the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, an accepting group that prioritizes supporting its members. Drinks on the cocktail menu such as “A Proper Burial,” and “The All-Seeing Eye,” nod to the organization.  

”Once it popped into my head, it was clear that that was the right move,” he said of the bar’s theme. 

A fake skeleton looks up at visitors from beneath the bar, symbolizing what McIntyre said were real human bones discovered in one of the rooms in the ’90s — not an uncommon find in an old Odd Fellows’ lodge. During new member ceremonies, Odd Fellows are faced with a skeleton — a reminder of the mortality of mankind and themselves. Today, the bones are made of papier-mache or plaster.

photo  “Charles,” a skeleton dressed in original Independent Order of Odd Fellows garb, lays in a case at Odd Fellows Temple Room. A human skeleton was supposedly found in one of the building’s rooms in the 1990s, a relic of the fraternal organization’s member ceremonies. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Throughout the bar’s space are images of three linked rings, a visual representation of the Odd Fellows tenets: friendship, love and truth, McIntyre said. A peephole in the bar’s double doors brings up images of secret handshakes. A giant dimmer on the wall was once used to control neon lights on the ceiling. 

The Orion owner — and the residents living above the space — wanted Odd Fellows to have a low-volume, jazz-club feel, McIntyre said. His goal was to see patrons walk in and think, “This feels like it’s been here since the 1920s.”

McIntyre spent three years building tables, hand-laying tile for the bar, getting support from friends and professionals, hand-painting the murals that depict Odd Fellows iconography and more to bring his vision to life. 

“As soon as I walked in, I was just floored,” said Mark Hunter, a Bellingham bass player who played at the Odd Fellows Temple Room’s first performance on Saturday, Jan. 13.  

photo  Mark Hunter plays the bass while drummer D’Vonne Lewis keeps time on the drums during the jazz quartet’s set. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

Hunter performs with a jazz quartet that plays every Tuesday at Aslan Depot jazz nights.  

Bellingham’s DIY rock and folk scene means jazz is on the periphery, Hunter said.  

“A place like this really puts it center stage in a really cool way, and not just to the usual older audience,” he said. 

McIntyre’s aim for Odd Fellows seems to come across. “All the stylings just make it really feel like you’re in a jazz club,” Hunter said.  

The quartet was worried about filling up such a large space, but extra chairs had to be added to seat all the patrons on Saturday, Hunter said. Some people were there for the music while others were talking among themselves.  

“That was a really nice experience last night, having such a full room and having both listeners and people socializing,” Hunter said on Sunday.   

photo  Orion owner Jonny McIntyre claps as a jazz quartet finishes a set. The musicians played the bar’s first live performance. (Andy Bronson/Cascadia Daily News)  

McIntyre emphasized that the space is foremost a bar that has events, not a traditional music venue. Live events must end at 10 p.m. because of the upstairs residential units. He imagines people coming in for a cocktail and some jazz, then having time to go see a rock show afterward.  

Performers will be compensated by the owner, making the shows free, McIntyre said, and he is holding off on renting the space out for big events.

“We just want the community to experience it,” he said.  

McIntyre wants to give opportunities to those who may not get it elsewhere.  

“We’re going to try to get some different stuff in here that you wouldn’t really see on the other stages in town,” he said. 

The Odd Fellows Temple Room at The Orion is open 7 p.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, and 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

This story was updated at 10:13 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 18 to clarify that Jonny McIntyre is the bar’s sole owner. 

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