Jones logo
Oxford Junction ZCBJ Lodge and Fern Theatre Listed as Endangered
Rita Balichek submitted this article and photo. For more information on endangered historic sites in Iowa, click here to visit Preservation Iowa.

The ZCBJ is one of 12 historic sites that have been selected as Iowa's Most Endangered Properties of 2011 by Preservation Iowa. This program was begun in 1995 to show Iowans the special buildings and historic sites that are slowly and gradually slipping away.
The ZCBJ (Zapadni Cesko-Bratrska Jednota, which means Western Czech/Bohemian Brotherhood Association) Lodge was a Czech fraternal organization that started in Oxford Junction on July 4, 1887. It was an outgrowth of the Bohemian Slavonic Benefit Association, which organized on January 1, 1884. Named Lodge Budounost No. 22, it grew to be the 3rd largest in the state of Iowa, with more than 230 members. Only Cedar Rapids and Dubuque had larger memberships. ZCBJ is now known as Western Fraternal Life Association. This building has been determined eligible for National Register listing.
By 1891, there were many lodges in Oxford Junction: Masons, Knights of Pythias, Internal Order of Odd Fellows, AOUW, and Elder Camp MWA. Many of these groups met in the upstairs of the corner hardware store on Broadway Street. In May 1916, the ZCBJ bought the corner hardware store and the lots to the east. They contracted to build a brick building to house an opera house and movie theater on the main floor with a dance hall and kitchen on the top floor. This building was to be opened up into the lodge rooms on the top floor of the hardware store. Work began to build the lodge building in August 1916 with John Klepach & Co of Cedar Rapids the contractor. The building was built with local Bohemian labor and all the materials were hauled in by rail, then transported by local men to the site with horse teams. All the concrete was made on site by hand. The building was completed 6 months later and opened February 19, 1917 with 253 people attending the supper and dance. The hall was used for graduations, anniversaries, weddings, and birthdays. Usually the local Czech band played. The last dance held was in the 1960s.
The theater portion of the building was called "Fern Theater." It had an orchestra pit, stage, and theater seating. Many stage plays were presented in the theater. The carbon arc projectors are still in the projection room, just the way they were after the last showing. The theater seated about 350 people. The stage curtain was a scene in Prague. Entitled "Praha Pohled Na Stare Mesto" meaning "A View over the city of Prague" and painted by Sosman & Landis Co., Chicago. This curtain was moved to the Museum of Repertoire Americana, Mt. Pleasant, IA in 1985.
Presently, the building is in good condition, no major structural problems. The immediate threat is the leaky roof. After years of spending about $1000 per year for roof patching, the lodge had the roof completely redone on the meeting room building. The ZCBJ Building still needs a complete roof repair. Original light fixtures, doors, and woodwork are in need of cleaning, but are not broken or removed. In the lodge meeting rooms all the shutters are in place on the windows.

[space] [to home] [space] image

© Copyright 1997-2013, The Art Department, © Copyright 2014-2020, Richard Harrison.
Last updated on Friday, 16-Apr-2021 16:54:39 MST