I have a personal connection to Presidential Oaks located at 200 Pleasant Street in Concord, New Hampshire–my grandfather, Clarence Webster, died there in 1969. It was called the Odd Fellows’ Home back then, and he was really happy to be able to live there in his last years. At that time the residents were mostly Odd Fellows like himself. He felt very connected to that organization, and to his “Brothers.” He made sure we knew how wonderful the staff there were to him.
The building that he resided in was the newer (current) one. There have been two completely different ‘home’complexes–one built and dedicated in June of 1887, and a second one dedicated in June of 1932 when the first had become outdated and outgrown. Gramp proudly said that he had contributed funds through his local I.O.O.F to help build the place.
Around 1965 the Odd Fellows’ Home, now more of a nursing/retirement home, opened
up residency to non-members. According to a description on waymarking.com, “In 1992, the “Medical Building” was added to the campus. The building provides a secure environment, central air, bright, spacious accommodations, handicap access, and convenient parking. Licensed medical professionals provide state-of-the-art rehabilitation for brain injuries, joint replacements and wound treatment. Our exceptional staff are specially trained to provide end of life care in a dignified, warm, and compassionate manner. In 2002, the trade name “Presidential Oaks” was adopted to emphasize that the Home has been open to everyone since 1965.
To learn the history of these buildings one has to go back in time to 1882. The Springfield Republic newspaper, [in a June 1887] article reporting on the dedication of the first Odd Fellow’s Home, reported that it “was first suggested in 1882. Its object was to aid indigent Odd Fellows and the widows and orphans of Odd Fellows, and by the terms of its charter it was exempted from taxation on its funds or property. The house contains 26 rooms and cost $11,500. It is desired to buy an oak grove adjoining the estate, and for this the grand lodge has appropriated $500, and $1000 more is needed. The officers also desire to raise a fund of $50,000 as a permanent guaranty for the support of the home.“
The New Hampshire Patriot & Gazette, a local Concord NH newspaper, on June 23, 1887 describes in detail about the land that the building still sits on, and describes in detail the layout and decor of that first home. “The New Hampshire Odd Fellows Home, which has not been permanently established, is located in a spot of commanding beauty. It was originally chosen by President [Franklin] Pierce for a homestead, but owing to the death of his wife and son, he abandoned the property, which has since been owned by others. It is located on one of the highest elevations of land in the west of the city, on the north side of Pleasant street, and about a mile from the railway station. The premises contain 8-1/2 acres of land, sloping gradually to the south and east, overlooking a large section of beautiful interval country. The lot has a frontage on Pleasant street of 535 feet, and a depth of 717 feet, and was purchased with all the property upon it for $6,000. This purchase was completed, April 10, 1886 and since then the work of making additions, alterations and improvements has been carried on. The buildings consist of a large wooden French roof house, four stories high, including basement, with L, and a good sized stable. The interior of the home is one of the prettiest, coziest and most home-like institutions to be found anywhere. The home contains 25 rooms, 16 of which are sleeping apartments, and all are well lighted and ventilated. In the basement of the L is a large boiler-room 20×22 feet with cemented floor, and a 12 foot tubular boiler for heating purposes, with ample room for coal, wood, ashes, etc. Adjoining, under the main house, are two bath rooms, and water-closets combined, with hot and cold water in abundance, nicely painted and whitewashed, and fitted up with all the latest sanitary improvements. On the northeast corner is the wash room 15×18 feet with sink, pump, and well, inlet into the sewer for slops, copper boiler with furnace for heating water and all the necessary fixtures for washing purposes. Opposite, across a passage way running through the basement east to west, on the south-east corner, is another large room, with sink and pumping apparatus, that may be used for any desired purpose, and adjoining in the rear is the cellar, an apartment by itself, cemented and whitewashed. The front entrance to the first floor is over a wide flight of stairs to a spacious piazza, and from thence into the hallway, 8 feet wide, extending through the house. On the left is the reception room, 15x 18-1/2 feet, which is neatly papered on the walls and ceiling, and was furnished by the Odd Fellows and Rebekahs of Manchester. This is one of the most charming rooms in the home. In the rear of this, in the south-west corner, is the matron’s room, neatly carpeted, furnished with a black walnut marble-topped chamber set, and otherwise adorned. Opposite the reception room is the ladies’ parlor 15×18-1/2 feet, handsomely papered and painted, which was elegantly furnished by White Mountain Lodge of Concord. West of this room is the dining hall, a large apartment admirably adapted for the purpose, and opening into the hallway on the south and into the kitchen on the north. An oil-cloth carpet of pretty design covers the floor, in the center of which stands the dining table, with chairs and other accessories. From this room entrance is made into the culinary department of the home. The kitchen is a large and commodious room 17×20 feet with birch floor, high mop-boards, ample cupboard room, sink, and accessories, including Long pond water, hard finished walls, with snow-white ceiling, and a large Eclipse range for cooking purposes. Adjoining the kitchen is the pantry, 8×20 feet, furnished in the same general style as the former. Entrance to these rooms is made from the south side of the L, through a hall 8×15 feet, finished in keeping with the adjoining rooms, and containing a marble washbowl supplied with Long pond water, near which is a pump used for forcing the same into a tank in the supper part of the second story, when occasion demands. To the left is a small sewing room, well light and very cosy. A winding stairway from the hall in the main building lads to the second story, and a niche in the wall on the way up contains a bust of Grant, donated by a generous friend not a member of the order. This floor can also be reached by a stairway from the L. The southeast room is 16×18 feet, is papered and painted in keeping with the general appearance of the apartments, and was furnished by the Harmonial Association connected with White Mountain Lodge of Concord. The northeast room, of the same dimensions, was furnished by Howard Lodge and Hildreth Encampment of Suncook. The northwest room is 13×13 and very convenient. The southwest room was furnished mainly by its present occupants, Mr. and Mrs. Nichols. The upper stories of the L contain a large washroom supplied with washbowl and an ample water supply, and several sleeping rooms–8×15, 9×15, and 10×12 in size–all hard finished, ventilated over doors, well lighted, all opening into hallway, and presenting a cheerful appearance. The west room in the second story of the L was very neatly furnished by Hand-in-Hand Rebekah Degree Lodge of Antrim. The third story is also reached by a winding stairway, a large hallway eight feet wide extending the entire length of the main building, as in all the other stories. The northeast room was furnished by the Odd Fellows of Lebanon, and the southeast room by the Odd Fellows of Laconia. In the rear of this room is a small one very neatly furnished by the Glen lodge of Gorham. The bedrooms on this floor are all large and airy, painted and papered throughout, and are well ventilated. All the rooms in the house are supplied with radiators and heated by steam, gas fixtures for lighting, and mouldings from which to hang pictures. All the hallways in the house have been neatly carpeted. Ample sewerage facilities have been provided, and in all of its appointments the house is practically completed. The improvements throughout have been made with an eye single to the best interests of the institution, the money at the disposal of the trustees having been very wisely and judiciously expended, as an inspection of the premises will plainly show. The cost of the alterations and improvements, which were thoroughly and substantially made, was $5,500, making the total cost of the home $11,500. The matron of the home is Miss Sadie Colby of Piermont, N.H. who has resided there since December 23. At present she has but one assistant.”
By 1924 the I.O.O.F of New Hampshire were already collecting funds in order to build a larger and more modern building. After at least a decade of fund raising, it became a reality. The June 26, 1924 edition of the Boston Herald (Boston MA) on page 3 announced: “CONCORD N.H. … Robert I. Whtiney, Marlboro, was elected president of the New Hampshire Odd Fellows’ Home Association today [more officers]. It was reported that the new building fund amounts to $55,000 and that $10,000 has been added to the fund for support of the home during the year. The home now has 26 inmates.”
In June of 1932, the new “Home” was completed and dedicated. The Boston Herald (Boston MA), on June 22, 1932, page 13 announced: “CONCORD, N.H., June 21–Several thousand members of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and their wives and guests will attend the formal opening and dedication of the new $1,000,000 New Hampshire home here tomorrow. An elaborate program of music and speech-making has been arranged. Joseph Powley of Toronto, grand sire of the Sovereign Grand lodge, will deliver the dedicatory address. Delegations from every New England states and the province of Quebec will present greetings, and the Gov. John G. Winant will be an honored guest at the ceremonies.”
On 23 February 2002, the New Hampshire Union Leader/New Hampshire Sunday News (Manchester, NH) published an article that on the previous day (February 22, 2002), ceremonies were held on the hillside at the New Hampshire Odd Fellows’ Home where the name was changed to Presidential Oaks, and is now a residence and all-level care facility for the elderly.
The Sovereign Grand Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows – official web site
Grand Lodge of the I.O.O.F. – Waymarking.com
Franklin Pierce, Unlucky #14 – Cow Hampshire