SF Labor Temple – Redstone History
The Redstone Building is celebrating its 100th anniversary between Sept. 7th and Feb. 27th, 2015. For the first 54 years, it was known as the San Francisco Labor Temple.
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The City’s Labor Temples
The idea of a labor temple for San Francisco first surfaced in 1888 with news that the Chicago labor movement had built a temple for its unions. However, it wasn’t until November 1899 that the local movement got serious about the idea. By the fall of 1901 the campaign lost steam as the Building Trades Council and the Labor Council were not able to resolve their differences around organizing unskilled workers. Attempts to revive the plan happened again in 1904 but was dropped due to lack of interest. This quickly changed following the Great Earthquake of 1906.
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The quake destroyed the Labor Council’s offices at the Emma Spreckels Building, which was demolished by dynamite when the national guard tried to setup fire breaks to stop the city from burning down. The fire also engulfed the South of Market where union meeting halls like the Metropolitan Temple were. As soon as the dust settled, plans to build a number of union buildings got under way.
The Labor Council went public with its plan to build a new temple for $10,000 at the corner of 14th and Mission Street on August 24th, 1906. The location had been part of Woodward Gardens, the city’s most popular outside entertainment venue from 1866-1891.
San Francisco Call August 24th 1906
In October the Labor Clarion (the Labor Council’s news journal) did a cover story about the 7,000 square foot building, and its 4 halls, with the largest on the 2nd floor having a capacity of 400 people. It included offices for the Molders, Laundry Workers, Street Carmen, Typographers, Labor Clarion and Labor Council.
The Labor Council’s Temple on 14th street would be the center for city’s Labor movement between 1906 and 1915. It was operated by the SF Labor Temple Hall Association for the Labor Council. The council would leave the building for its new Temple on 16th street for a number of reasons. These included the fact that the Hall Association did not buy the property but only leased it. The building was quickly constructed out of wood and was already starting to show some instability due to all the large crowds in the main hall. And also due to the fact that the state of California had intentionally decided to place its military post known today as the Armory directly across the street.
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The San Francisco Building Trades Council announced plans to build a large temple located at 14th and Guerrero on July 4th 1906, that would replace their old headquarters that burned down after the earthquake. The building would take two years to complete, serving the city’s building trade unions until 1961 when it was destroyed by fire.
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The first proposal to construct a much larger temple than the Labor Council’s home on 14th street started in 1909, but not acted on. However, when the state of California announced plans to build its military headquarters across the street from The Labor Temple on 16th and Mission, the Labor Council responded by setting up a search committee to look for a new home in the North Mission area in May of 1910.
On July 15th, 1910 the search committee selected a number of adjacent lots on the corner of Capp and 16th street as the site for the new temple. The prominent Spreckels family agreed to sell the property for $35,000. The SF Labor Temple Hall Association that built and operated the temple on 14th street was charged with raising the funds to buy the property, design the new temple and construct it.
This was easier said than done as the Association would have to weather a serious two year recession as well as a major public relations disaster when three local labor leaders from the Building Trades Council were convicted of ordering the bombing of the Los Angeles Times building in October 1910.
The design was published in March of 1912 with a price of $250,000.
San Francisco Labor Clarion – March 1st 1912
The Hall Association would finally come up with enough money to start construction in April of 1914, after downgrading their plans from the 5 story class A building to a three story building that would cost $134,000 to construct.
The Labor Community would hold part of its annual labor day celebration in 1914 by em-placing the cornerstone in uncompleted temple on September 7th 1914. Over a thousand union members and their families showed up to hear speeches by the Mayor and labor leaders.
Labor Clarion – September 8th 1914
Finally on February 27th 1915, the grand opening for the San Francisco Labor Temple was celebrated with 600 union men and their families.
The building would consist of 24 offices and :
- a basement with a small and large banquet hall
- the first floor where the main auditorium and Assembly Hall with pool tables
- Mezzanine floor as a gallery to the auditorium and cloak rooms
- 2nd Floor with 4 large meeting halls
- 3rd Floor with 3 meeting halls
The Temple was quickly filled by local unions affiliated with the Labor Council, starting to make a profit within two years.
This page will have additional materials added over the next few months. So check back for more.
If you have any historic information, about the buildings, from pictures or documents about the buildings please email us…