Eighty-year hub for workers gets new life as ‘Labour Temple’
By Clay Eals
One word can convey a lot.
“Temple,” for instance, summons a lofty image: a cathedral, chapel or place of worship. So it makes sense that when America’s passionate labor movement arose in the late 1800s, those who conceived centers for workers to support each other seized the term as their own.
The drive to establish Seattle’s first Labor Temple emerged at the 20th century’s dawn. “It Will Be Built,” promised the headline for a March 27, 1900, article in The Seattle Times, reporting on a rally the previous night at Armory Hall.
One speaker, Seattle Post-Intelligencer editor J.G. Pyle, described the temple concept with a more universal word — home. “It means … companionship, sociability, advancement and rest after a day of toil, relief from all cares of work. With a home, you can act in harmony in a way that would otherwise be impossible.”
Five years later, on Labor Day 1905, a new, brick-veneered shrine to organized work opened at Sixth and University, where it served scores of unions for 37 years.
It gave way in 1942 to a larger, two-floor, art-deco/brick statement of solidity at First Avenue and Clay Street, in what is known today as Belltown.
A two-floor northern auditorium addition arrived in 1946, and the original structure gained a third floor in 1955. The temple’s exterior earned city landmark status in 2008, but a relentless scattering of blue-collar workers beyond the city’s perimeters and decades of deferred maintenance took a toll.
Fortunately, two entities came to the temple’s recent rescue. The Downtown Cornerstone Church is converting the auditorium addition to a 700-seat sanctuary. Meanwhile, a Queen Anne-based real-estate firm owned by spouses Chris & Angela Faul has transformed the heart of the edifice while retaining and enhancing as much of its historical character as possible.
Fresh from society’s rebound from COVID-19, the Fauls created a hub for a more individualized style of labor (“co-working” in today’s lingo), with varied offices, meeting rooms, event spaces and all manner of amenities. The 56 spaces are 40% occupied and expected to be full by year’s end.
One showcase is a huge interior courtyard that, along with a ground-level reading room, can accommodate 150 people.
Perhaps most charming, however, is the temple’s rebranding: the insertion of a single letter in its name. It’s now the Labour Temple, the “u” reflecting the building’s configuration and union roots.
The Fauls are proud to have embraced the niche of small-scale preservation projects (such as their Queen Anne Exchange residential venture) without what they call “high-rise ambitions.”
Of course, they call it a labour of love.
Thanks to Chris & Angela Faul , Kenny Wilson, James Laing and automotive informant Bob Carney for their invaluable help with this installment!
To see Clay Eals’ 360-degree video of the “Now” prospect and compare it with the “Then” photos, and to hear this column read aloud by Clay, check out our Seattle Now & Then 360 version of the column.