100 Years at 518 Northampton Street
1915 – The Odd Fellows & the Strand Theatre
The Strand Theatre opened on May 8th of 1915 in the newly-constructed Odd Fellows Building at 518 Northampton Street. On the theatre’s program were recent silent films, then known as “photo dramas.” Surprisingly, the films often changed daily but were sometimes repeated months later. Click here for a list of movies shown at the Strand Theatre.
The movie scene of 1915 saw a few vampire films released, some made in Europe and featuring extravagant costuming. In an interview, the undramatically-dressed Mme. Petrova stated that actresses should rely more on acting, rather than costuming, to convey the emotional content of horror films.
I. O. O. F.
The Vanderveer Social Club of the International Order of the Odd Fellows, built the present structure at 518 Northampton Street and owned the building until 1963. The I. O. O. F. Hall was erected on the site of the Jacksonian Club House, then listed as 516 Northampton Street, and also known as the Old Garden Cottage.
1936 – 518 & WEST Radio
In 1936, a portion of 518 housed a local station, WEST Radio AM 1200, later AM 1400. WEST Radio operated from the Odd Fellows Building from 1936 until moving to a new location in 1963. The station followed a general entertainment format and initially broadcasted from 1200 AM before changing to 1400 AM three years later, just before America’s entry into World War II.
The station experimented with other formats such as “hillbilly,” popular contemporary and big band styles. In subsequent years WEST changed locations and management. It operates today at 99.5 FM and plays, with its sister station, WHOL, Spanish language programming.
1944 through 1963 – Transition: From the I. O. O. F. to the VFW
In 1944, after many years of service to the Easton community, the Odd Fellows moved from 518 Northampton Street, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, E. C. Baker Post 1290 (“VFW”) occupied the building using the 516 address. Records indicate that the VFW also purchased the property nearly 20 years later, in 1963.
The VFW continued to operate on the premises for more than six decades, occupying the lower level of the building during the last few years, after the property was acquired by Nurture Nature Foundation in 2004. Over the years, the VFW held many patriotic activities for veterans and young people. They erected a flag pole in front of the building and maintained it throughout their stay. The American Flag was proudly displayed, reminding Easton of the sacrifice and dedication of our veterans.
Carl E. Weller & the Weller Speedy Iron Soldering Gun
During the 1930s and 40s a part of 518 Northampton Street was also occupied by a radio repair shop. Its proprietor was Carl E. Weller, the inventor of the Weller “Speedy Iron” (a.k.a. “Speed Iron”), one of the earliest soldering guns.
The inspiration for the soldering gun, as reported by Popular Science in an article from 1963, was the difficulty for repairmen of keeping soldering irons constantly hot during the workday, as well as waiting for usable temperatures from heating a cold iron. This could be quite daunting and time-consuming for repairmen who operated small shops.
Several inventors had worked on the problem, but Weller was the first to construct a reliable, fast-heating model. In 1946 he was able to secure a patent on its construction. Manufacture of the gun led to the formation of the Weller Electrical Company, which later became Weller Manufacturing.
Carl Weller would go on to invent other electrical-based tools. Weller Manufacturing became a world-wide recognized name in quality tool manufacture.
2004 and after – Nurture Nature Foundation & Nurture Nature Center:
Continuing the Community Focus
In 2004, the Nurture Nature Foundation headquartered in New York City purchased the building. Its chairman, prominent attorney and mediator Theodore W. Kheel (1914 – 2010), initially envisioned that it could house a proposed Easton Modern American Art Center.
Those plans changed when flooding damaged major parts of Easton in 2004, 2005 and 2006. After witnessing the devastation, Kheel came up with a new vision for the building, and the current Nurture Nature Center was born. To read about its history, click here.