Preservation Magazine, Summer 2021

A Women-Led Effort to Restore Astoria, Oregon’s Odd Fellows Building

It’s been a hero’s journey for three women who scraped together $425,000 to buy the 1923 Odd Fellows Building in Astoria, Oregon, in 2018. Their efforts not only saved the livelihoods of a handful of tenants but also won them a full exterior paint donation from Benjamin Moore in 2020 as part of the National Trust’s “Where Women Made History” campaign.

Photo of the Odd Fellows building, a multi-story purple building with red and white trim that stands on a street corner in Astoria, Oregon.

photo by: Leah Nash

Current tenants in the Odd Fellows Building include the Astoria Arts and Movement Center, a cafe, a community theater, a gift shop specializing in locally made products, office space, and an art studio.

Andrea Mazzarella, one of the three owners, chalks it all up to “small town magic.” The women got the ball of goodwill rolling when they decided to save the building from prospective buyers whose plans did not appear to include the four tenants, all women-owned businesses. Among these was a nonprofit yoga and dance studio in the spacious second-floor ballroom, the Astoria Arts and Movement Center (AAMC), where Mazzarella serves as board president. Her co-owners are her mother—AAMC board member Nancy Mazzarella-Tisch—and Jessamyn West, the center’s executive director.

The people of Astoria (a Main Street America community with a population of 10,015) aided them in raising enough money for the down payment, and then helped them garner enough votes to win a 2019 Partners in Preservation: Main Streets grant for $150,000 from the National Trust and American Express. The grant covered the majority of the funding needed to restore the facade. Mazzarella and her co-owners won additional grants and worked with local preservation experts and volunteers on related projects such as restoring the Palladian windows encircling the second-floor ballroom and addressing years of water damage to the masonry walls. This summer, the National Trust’s HOPE Crew program will deploy an all-female team to help continue the window restoration project.

The two-story (plus a mezzanine level) structure is now decked out in eye-popping purple with dark lilac, gray, white, and berry-red trim. The color scheme was selected after consultations with a team from Benjamin Moore and painter Simo Ranta.

The owners decided they could take liberties with it, because no accurate description of the original color scheme exists. Black-and-white photos reveal little. Says Mazzarella, “We thought, ‘Yeah, we can paint it purple. It’s our building!’”

#TellTheFullStory: Where Women Made History

The National Trust’s Where Women Made History campaign supported the exterior painting of the Odd Fellows building. Learn more about the campaign and how you can help.

Susan G. Hauser writes about food, drink, and travel, among other topics. Her work has appeared in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Sunset.

Every place has a woman's story to tell. Through Where Women Made History, we are identifying, honoring, and elevating places across the country where women have changed their communities and the world.

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