Seattle Now & Then: Seattle Labor Temple, 1955

(Click and click again to enlarge photos)

THEN: In this view looking north, the 1942 Seattle Labor Temple stands at the northeast corner of First Avenue and Clay Street circa 1955, shortly after its third floor was added. The temple’s 1946 auditorium addition is visible at left. Car IDs from automotive informant Bob Carney: (from left) 1946-48 Oldsmobile convertible, 1950ish Willys Jeep, possibly a 1955 Mercury, 1951-52 Chevrolet Fleetline, 1950 Oldsmobile, 1954-55 Ford F250 pickup, 1951-52 Plymouth, 1948 Oldsmobile, 1940 Chevrolet, 1949 Mercury, and a 1946-48 Desoto. (Courtesy Seattle Labor Temple Association)
NOW1: Standing at First and Clay in front of their rebranded Labour Temple are (from left) real-estate developers Chris and Angela Faul, architect Kenny Wilson and manager Stacey Buechler, with tenants Kyle Mylius and Leslie Rosenberg, financial advisers; and Alex M. Dunne, strategy consultant, holding his dogs Coco and Helo. (Jean Sherrard)

Published in The Seattle Times online on May 18, 2023
and in PacificNW Magazine of the printed Times on May 21, 2023

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.

March 27, 1900, Seattle Times, p5, headline and lead of story.

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.

Pre-1955 photo of 2800 First Ave. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)

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.

The Labor Temple, seen from the north, with auditorium addition, May 2, 1947. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)

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.

Chris & Angela Faul (Courtesy Faul Company)

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.

NOW3: Jim Laing, an accountant and Labour Temple tenant, uses one of the building’s six new interior phone booths, which architect Kenny Wilson converted from storage closets to allow for undisturbed individual participation in online meetings. (Clay Eals)

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.

NOW2: (From left) Chris and Angela Faul and architect Kenny Wilson chat in the Labour Temple courtyard, which can host events for 150 people. Original interior light fixtures hover above like UFOs. (Jean Sherrard)


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.

Below are 5 additional photos, links to the building’s Seattle landmark designation document from 2008 and a labor-temple dissertation from 2014, and, in chronological order, 20 historical clips from The Seattle Times and Seattle Post-Intelligencer online archive (available via Seattle Public Library) and Washington Digital Newspapers, that were helpful in the preparation of this column.

Labor Temple with new third floor, Feb. 9, 1955. (Puget Sound Regional Branch, Washington State Archives)
The former First Avenue entry of the Labor Temple, including a neon sign (foreground) that was moved to Clay Street and a blade sign (right background) that was moved to the building’s courtyard. (Courtesy Faul Company)
NOW4B: The Labor Temple sign that originally shone from its front entrance on First Avenue now tops its Clay Street entrance, augmented by a yellow “u” in line with the building’s rebranding. (Clay Eals)
NOW4A: The Labor Temple “blade” sign that hung at First and Clay now overlooks the building’s u-shaped courtyard, with the addition of a yellow “u.” (Jean Sherrard)
NOW5 (online only): Chris Faul (left) and architect Kenny Wilson chat inside the 81-year-old basement-level boiler room of the Labour Temple. They say the room may be converted to a “speakeasy.” (Jean Sherrard)
NOW6: The Labour Temple now is a monthly stop on the Belltown Art Walk. (Clay Eals)
Click the above image to download a pdf of the Nov. 17, 2008, Seattle Landmarks Preservation Board designation of the Seattle Labor Temple building.
Click the above image to download a pdf of a 2014 dissertation on the origin of labor temples.
March 22, 1900, Seattle Times, p3.
March 27, 1900, Seattle Times, p5.
March 31, 1900, Seattle Times, p9.
Nov. 18, 1901, Seattle Star.
Jan. 15, 1902, Seattle Star.
Dec. 10, 1903, Seattle Star.
Dec. 15, 1904, Seattle Star.
Jan. 22, 1905, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p14.
June 20, 1905, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p5.
July 26, 1905, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p5.
Sept. 4, 1905, Seattle Times, p5.
Aug. 30, 1942, Seattle Times, p25.
Oct. 30, 1942, Seattle Times, p3.
Oct. 31, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p5.
Nov. 1, 1942, Seattle Times, p41.
Jan. 15, 1946, Seattle Times, p11.
Nov. 8, 1946, Seattle Times, p4.
Feb. 15, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p26.
March 1, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p3.
March 2, 1955, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, p9.



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