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Labor Temple drawing
Labor Temple architectural rendering by W. J. Brockett, reproduced in Labor Herald, May 28, 1915. Click for larger view>>

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Labor Temple

From 1909 through 1932 the Central Trades & Labor Council (CTLC) anticipated moving to a building to be built by the Labor Temple Association on land purchased on North Fitzhugh, using funds raised by the Association and the CTLC. Shares of Temple stock were sold to both unions and individuals. Exhortations to purchase shares were heard at Council meetings, special fund-raising events (dances, bazaars, raffles, etc.) and even churches (which in 1911 were urged to set aside one Sunday a month for labor sermons and use half the collection to buy Temple stock). The Council’s weekly publication reported regularly on Labor Temple progress and, in 1915, encouraged stock purchase: “if every member of each local union were assessed $1, the Labor Temple could soon be built.”

In May, 1915 the Labor Herald published an architectural rendering of the proposed Labor Temple along with an article whose author anticipated the exultation of Rochester Labor “as it marches thousands strong next Labor Day” to “such a headquarters and social center building as City Labor has dreamed of and longed for — a fitting monument to the Sacrifice and Unity of the Local Movement.” The reader was then taken on a tour of the entire Labor Temple — its offices for union reps, reading rooms and library, eleven lodge rooms, banquet room and kitchen, ladies’ parlor, and a 1000 capacity assembly hall with balcony, stage and ante-rooms, etc. Atop the Temple’s ornamental facade would be an emblem of two clasped hands and 8 HOURS.

Though the land was fully paid for, construction of the Labor Temple was repeatedly postponed.

By 1918 the Association put off fund-raising so as not to compete with “necessary war work.” In 1922 Director Emanuel Koveleski attributed poor fund-raising to “continued industrial depression.” That year the Association enlisted George Eastman’s help in an unsuccessful effort to secure a $100,000 bank loan. AFL President Gompers promised to come on Labor Day to lay the cornerstone. In 1923 CTLC delegates “were unanimous in their opinion to forego the Labor Day demonstration of labor’s strength in Rochester” in favor of “devoting the money to the greater — Labor Temple — cause.” Anticipating that construction would soon begin, in 1923 the Association had the houses on its property torn down and leased out the land.

Fund-raising continued to lag, however, and meanwhile the Carpenters purchased the property of the Shoe Workers just up the block at 113 North Fitzhugh and immediately began to remodel it. By the end of 1925 Carpenters Hall had been dedicated and was seeking to book unions into its meeting halls. With Temple fund-raising stymied by the Depression and insufficient interest, when the CTLC had to vacate Reynold’s Arcade in 1932, a special committee appointed to secure a new meeting hall recommended Carpenters Hall. In April the Labor Temple Association liquidated Temple stock, returning funds to shareholders, and by May the CTLC was listed under the Carpenters’ telephone number.