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Wolcott Galleria’s new owners plan to take Casper landmark into future while preserving legacy

Wolcott Galleria’s new owners Ryan McIntyre, Samantha Harkins, Shane True, and Erick Berdahl pose on the theater stage on the second floor. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

CASPER, Wyo. — At one point in history, the Independent Order of Odd Fellows was the largest fraternity organization in the world, with some 10,000 lodges in 26 countries.

While far fewer Odd Fellow chapters still exist, one of their grand lodges remains an important landmark in downtown Casper.

Opened in 1950 just around the corner from the group’s former lodge, the Odd Fellows building was celebrated as an ultra-modern, three-story air-conditioned complex with retail and office space and three small to large rooms on the second floor for Odd Fellow rituals and events.

Casper real estate developer and businessman Charles Walsh bought the building in 2007 and went about updating the systems while restoring the building’s historic features. He rebranded it as The Walcott Galleria, and in 2009 it was listed on the National Register of Historic Buildings.

Two Odd Fellows buildings stand side by side in downtown Casper. The Wolcott Galleria occupies the center building, which opened in 1952 and is on the National Register of Historic Buildings. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

When Walsh decided to put the property up for sale, four Casper investors saw an opportunity to continue his efforts.

Ryan McIntyre and Erick Berdahl own downtown properties together, and decided to approach Walsh.

“We put an impromptu offer in because I knew there was another offer potentially on the table,” said Ryan. “We met with Charles and essentially wanted him to believe in our vision of keeping it local and not changing everything he worked hard to build, but utilize it and make it busier than it had been.”

Shane True, who owns a number of Casper properties, and Samantha Harkins, who owns Lee Brennon Charles Home Market, then came on board as partners.

(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

Most of the building’s offices and retail space is rented. What the group really wants to focus on is attracting people to the unique entertainment spaces.

Three spaces on the second floor range from small to very large. A theater with movable and fixed seating features some of the best acoustics in town, according to Ryan. Samantha says wedding or party planners have options of using one or all of the spaces for events, depending on their needs.

“They can have a ceremony here, they can have a reception here, they can do a rehearsal dinner,” she said. “We really could encompass their entire wedding or event in one space. There are a lot of places where you really can’t do that in one location.”

The large ballroom at the Wolcott Galleria can seat around 350 people. (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)

Along with weddings, they plan to pursue parties, graduations, holiday events, and music shows.

The group says getting more traffic downtown would help the Galleria and other business. One solution would be to convert the one-way Wolcott and Durbin streets back into two-way streets.

“We need to get more traffic into downtown and get more people coming into the building,” said Erick.

The building’s history and Charles Walsh’s work to preserve it is not lost on the new owners.

“We high-five every time we come in here,” said Erick.

“It’s really neat to own a piece of history, because they don’t build stuff like this anymore,” said Ryan. “It’s incredible.”

Information on booking events or renting space at the Wolcott Galleria can be found at www.wolcottgalleria.com or by calling 307-247-0495.

The original Odd Fellows building on the corner of Second Street and Wolcott Street is seen in the 1920s. The new Odd Fellows building was constructed next door in the early 1950s. (Bernadine Reed Collection, Western History Center at Casper College)
The Odd Fellows building at 136 S. Wolcott St. is seen under construction, circa 1950. (Bob Olsen Collection. Western History Center at Casper College)
The three rings, seen on the floor of the historic elevator, stand for “Friendship, Love, and Truth.” (Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)
(Dan Cepeda, Oil City News)