Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Swamp House

On July 4, 2013, E. Clampus Vitus, Branciforte Chapter, dedicated a plaque to the "Swamp House" on the empty lot behind the Independent Order of Odd Fellows building on Forest Street in Boulder Creek.
Image Courtesy the Author

The significance of the "Swamp House" is that it no longer exists, and that the people of Boulder Creek were grateful to the I.O.O.F. for demolishing the structure. There are stories about the "Swamp House" passed down though generations of long time residents, but what we do know is:

Boulder Creek Lodge, No. 152, Independent Order of Odd Fellows, was instituted on February 10, 1900. They soon were looking for a property on which to build a meeting place. On March 17th it was reported that they had secured the purchase of the lot opposite the Fireman’s Hall, on the North West corner of Forest and Main streets. The cost just $400.

A few weeks later, Andrew Baldwin was reported to have purchased:

“the old rookery on the Odd Fellow’s lot, corner Main and Forest streets, known as the ‘Swamp House,’ and began tearing it down. The Odd Fellows deserve a vote of thanks for having this eye-sore removed from the heart of town, even if they went no farther. On the contrary, however, a fine hall, that will be an ornament to our town is soon to take its place.”
So Baldwin had purchased the “rookery.” Looking up the definition of “rookery” we find that besides “a place where rooks congregate to breed,” it is also “a crowded tenement house.” But if we refer back to the 1913 Webster’s dictionary, we will find the obsolete definition “a brothel.”

On April 28, 1900, the Mountain Echo, printed in the building now occupied by Boulder Creek Hardware, reported:

“The demolition of the old ‘Swamp House’ on the Odd Fellows lot has been completed and that corner looks better already.”

San Lorenzo Valley Museum Collection
Hubbard and Carmichael brothers of San Jose won the I.O.O.F. building contract. Their bid was $3461. By June 2nd the first load of lumber was “on the ground” and construction began under the direction of E. A. House of San Jose. An appropriate surname for a contractor! Actually it was most likely Alvin E. House.
Construction was halted so that a grand ball could be held in the building on the eve of the Fourth of July, 113 years ago. The new building was dedicated on October 20, 1900.

The “Swamp House” was now gone but not forgotten!