Shiloh Meeting Hall
aka: Shiloh Church
Located on the banks of Spring Creek in downtown Springdale (Washington and Benton counties), the historic Shiloh Meeting Hall—formerly called the Shiloh Church and the Odd Fellows Lodge—is one of the oldest buildings in northwestern Arkansas. Built in 1871, it has served as a gathering place for church congregations, fraternal organizations, and civic clubs, and it has hosted many community events.
The two-story frame building was a collaborative project of the Shiloh Regular Baptist Church (also known as the Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church), Liberty Missionary Baptist Church, the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and the Springdale Masonic Lodge No. 316. Land was donated by the Reverend John Holcomb, who was a minister, an elder, and an influential member of the Shiloh Church. The building was constructed at a cost of $973.43. Lumber for the building came from Van Winkle Mill near War Eagle (Benton County). The church bell installed in the belfry atop the building reportedly came from a Mississippi River steamboat and was brought to Springdale by Joseph Holcomb, son of Rev. John Holcomb. A clapper for the bell was made by the town blacksmith, Richard Lichlyter, from a spent cannonball Lichlyter’s brother had found on the battlefield of Pea Ridge (Benton County).
The ground floor of the building was designated for church activities, while the second floor was reserved for the Masons. The Masons were responsible for the upkeep of the second floor and also provided half the funds for roof repairs. This pattern of usage continued into the early 1900s, until each organization either outgrew the building or lost membership and eventually ceased to exist.
In 1925, the Women’s Civic Club of Springdale took out a long-term lease on the second floor of the Shiloh Church for use as its meeting room. The club maintained the lease agreement until 1927, when it moved to a meeting room in the newly constructed Springdale Library.
Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church was the last congregation to hold regular services in the building, disbanding in 1928. The Springdale Water and Sewer Department took possession of the building and property in 1931 due to delinquent taxes. In 1935, Springdale’s Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) New Era Lodge No. 36 bought the building and property for back taxes.
For the next seventy years, the Shiloh Church was commonly known as the Odd Fellows Hall. The Odd Fellows New Era Lodge and its women’s auxiliary, Rebekah Lodge No. 28, made frequent use of the building for local and state lodge meetings. Members occasionally shared the first floor of the building with church groups, school classes, and the local Boys’ Club.
According to former Shiloh Museum of Ozark History director Bob Besom, “The Odd Fellows recognized that the building they owned was an important cultural resource. They felt a responsibility to take care of it.” On June 5, 1975, the building was added to the National Register of Historic Places as the Shiloh Church.
For decades, a steady source of income for the building’s upkeep came from weekly bingo games sponsored by the Odd Fellows. In 1985, the lodge was faced with a problem when bingo was declared illegal. Officers of the lodge turned to the Shiloh Museum of Ozark History for help in devising a building preservation plan. Local architects Kirby Estes and Cyrus Sutherland volunteered to perform a study of the structure’s needs. The museum helped the lodge organize a fundraising campaign with a goal of $10,000 to give the building a new roof and new exterior paint job. The Odd Fellows and Rebekahs started an annual benefit luncheon, serving beans and cornbread. This event gave the public a rare opportunity to see the first floor of the building. (The second floor remained off limits, as it was for Odd Fellows rituals.)
Fundraising was slow until 1990, when Springdale philanthropist Bernice Jones donated $7,500 to the cause. In 1995, the Shiloh Museum’s board of trustees made a formal proposal to the New Era Lodge, asking it to donate the building to the Shiloh Museum in exchange for the museum’s promise to restore the building and make it available for lodge use. After a decade of negotiations between the museum and the Odd Fellows, the building was donated to the Shiloh Museum in 2005. Exterior, roof, chimney, and belfry projects were completed in 2009. The name Shiloh Meeting Hall was adopted for the building in 2006 to better reflect the common activity of each of the groups who met there. Plans were announced to turn the building into a meeting place and exhibit hall for the museum and the community.
The Shiloh Meeting Hall began renovation to shore up and stabilize the building, remove later additions, and equip it for an extended useful life with minimum alteration of its original construction. Citizens began raising funds to complete the interior renovations, landscaping, signs, lighting, and parking. Renovations to the first floor, a community meeting space, were completed by the grand opening on June 23, 2018, but work continues on the second floor, which will feature exhibits covering the history of the building and its occupants.
For additional information:
Lemke, Walter J. “Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church, Installment 1.” Flashback 15 (April 1965): 19–28.
———. “Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church, Installment 2.” Flashback 15 (July 1965): 21–24.
———. “Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church, Installment 3.” Flashback 15 (October 1965): 33–36.
———. “Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church, Installment 4.” Flashback 15 (November 1965): 9–12.
———. “Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church, Installment 5.” Flashback 16 (February 1966): 23–26.
———. “Shiloh Primitive Baptist Church, Installment 6.” Flashback 16 (May 1966): 17–18.
Lynch, Bobbie Byars. “The Regular Baptist Church at Shilo[h].” Flashback 26 (May 1976): 25–31.
Records of Springdale Odd Fellows and Rebekahs Lodges. Shiloh Museum of Ozark History, Springdale, Arkansas.
“Shiloh Church.” National Register of Historic Places nomination form. On file at Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, Little Rock, Arkansas. Online at http://www.arkansaspreservation.com/National-Register-Listings/PDF/WA0439.nr.pdf (accessed August 26, 2020).
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