On our way back from The Elms Hotel, we made a pit-stop by Belvoir Winery in nearby Liberty, Missouri. It was in the afternoon and was not an investigation. More of a walk around the site type of thing. I remember driving by this place as a kid and seeing the big "ODD FELLOWS HOME" sign in the massive front lawn, not having a clue what that meant. As far as I knew it was where weird people lived, as opposed to a fraternal order and secret society that dates back to the early 1800's. I could see the buildings off in the distance and just thought, "Wow, that place is huge!"
So almost 30 years later, I get a chance to visit and check the place out. Turning off 291 Highway, we get on the side road, go through the gates, and drive up the long road leading up to the main building and park out front. We go in and that is where the bar is. We take a seat a had a nice conversation with owner Jesse Leimkuehler. He told us a bit of the history of the International Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) and we tried a number of varieties of the Belvoir wines. He said we were free to explore the grounds, just don't try and go inside other buildings. Quite simply because they were unsafe. He did mention we could go into the bunker and visit the Odd Fellows Home Cemetery.
We grabbed our glasses of wine (we're fancy like that) and proceed to wander the grounds. Aside from the main building, the other buildings to the north were overrun with vines, weeds, trees, and practically about to fall down. We basically looked in the windows of those buildings and just wondered what they were like almost 100 years ago. I believe the buildings were a hospital, an old folks home, and an orphanage. Once packed with patients and kids, they are now on the brink of crumbling in on themselves. We were going to walk to the cemetery but on a hot and humid Missouri summer day, we were already sweating walking the path and decided to turn back after not seeing a cemetery in sight or knowing how much longer we would be walking. Once we got back, the owner said it was about 1/4 mile away. We probably didn't miss much.
Now that we're back to the main building, and another glass of wine, we meander the main floor. There are several open rooms to check out, but the coolest room by far was the one with all the old Odd Fellows memorabilia such as patches, sashes, masks, etc. There were also miscellaneous items that were found behinds walls such as drawings, buttons, toys, pictures and so forth. But the largest and most item of significance was "George" the skeleton in the coffin. According to the document on the wall, "George" was a member of the Smithville Lodge in 1880's and upon his death donated his body to science. They did whatever they did to make him a skeleton and he was returned to the IOOF lodge to be used in rituals.
Upon leaving, we bought a couple bottles of wine, thanked Jesse for the hospitality and said goodbye. From the looks of it on the website, they are doing renovation on the upper floors of the main building. I think it would be a great idea to turn it into a hotel of sorts, where you can stay the night. Would definitely like to do some night exploring of the place.
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