Thunderbird

Thunderbird Lodge

Thunderbird Lodge in Rose Valley Pa., Life Drawing Workshop

Written and photographed by Robert Bohne

Every now and then, you find an overlooked gem in your own back yard. And so it was with the Thunderbird Lodge in Rose Valley Pa. I’ve lived in this area my entire life, and I’ve driven by this location at least a thousand times, and yet I’ve never really noticed the Thunderbird Lodge. Hidden from view by decades of overgrown trees and wild vegetation, the Thunderbird Lodge on Rose Valley Road is now in the process of being renovated. The trees and vegetation have been trimmed and removed, and the building now takes it’s rightful place among the historic architecture of Rose Valley.

Thunderbird Lodge

Originally a circa-1790 stone barn, the building was converted into a home and studio for artists Alice Barber Stephens and Charles Stephens by architect William L. Price in 1904.  Charles was an authority on American Indians, and he named the Lodge after a legendary North American indigenous creature. Charles was a teacher at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and Alice was a successful illustrator. They raised their son, D. Owen Stephens (1894–1937) in Rose Valley, and painted there until their deaths.

Thunderbird Lodge

The Thunderbird Lodge then became the home of Allen Seymour and Mildred Olmstead. He was a lawyer, member of the Men’s Commission for Women’s Suffrage, and helped in the founding of the ACLU. Mildred worked with the American Birth Control League and was a director of the U.S. section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom. Together they worked with the American Friends Service Committee, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The house was used as a safe meeting place for other activists, including Jane AddamsJames FarmerGeorge Washington Carver, and Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 2015, the house was given to the community of Rose Valley and is now in the process of being converted into a museum that will feature the arts and crafts of the region, and on Sunday, Oct. 16, 2016, the Lodge held it’s first drawing workshop in the studios that were originally built for the Stephens. Studios that haven’t seen artists put pencil to paper in well over a hundred years.

Thunderbird Lodge, Robert BohneRobert Bohne, Carol, charcoal and white pastel on tan paper. 12 x 9 from the first Thunderbird Lodge drawing session.

So here’s a tip of the hat to the volunteers at the Thunderbird Lodge for their hard work and for their vision of preserving the past and presenting the artists of the future.

Written and photographed by Robert Bohne

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