This photo c. 1910 shows the parade master, probably of the Miners’ Union parade. On the left is the old city hall and in the centre is the Miners’ Union Hall. (Photo from the Rossland Museum Discovery Centre collection)

Rossland Miners’ Hall receives national recognition from Parks Canada

Building’s importance in developing the labour movement in B.C. highlighted

Rossland’s Miners’ Union Hall has been recognized as a nationally important heritage site in Canada.

The building received a designation as a national historic site on Saturday by Parks Canada.

The building was noted as important for its place in the development of workers’ rights in B.C. and Canada. Built in 1898, this hall is the site of the first union local in the mining sector in British Columbia. This union led the fight for fair and safe working conditions which eventually produced legislation guaranteeing an eight-hour work day for miners in the province.

The Miners’ Union Hall was built to serve as a meeting place for Local 38 of the Western Federation of Miners.

“A rare surviving building of its type in Western Canada, this eclectic, wooden, late-Victorian Gothic Revival Style building serves as a major landmark for the community,” Parks Canada notes in a news release. “Retaining excellent architectural integrity, it remains an important community meeting place for the people of Rossland.

“Furthermore, it is a particularly rare and eloquent example in Canada of a building expressly designed to house a union hall.”

Fair wages, safer conditions

The Western Federation of Miners (WFM) was a union for metallurgy industry workers in western North America, and Local 38 of WFM, founded in 1895, was the first local in the mining sector in B.C. It became one of the most influential and productive in the history of the province.

Among other things, the union fought for fair and safe working conditions for miners, and helped pave the way for the union movement in the province. The Miners’ Union Hall served as a space for union meetings, and also welcomed various other social and community events. In the 1960s, a new union hall was acquired in Trail, and the Rossland Miners’ Union Hall fell into disrepair.

In the 1970s, the Rossland Heritage Society was formed, and rehabilitation work began on the hall. The building was sold to the City of Rossland and reopened in 1983. The rehabilitation work carried out over the years, mainly in the late 1970s, and more recently in 2016-17, has helped to preserve the main characteristic elements of the building, including its volumetrics, the ordering of its facades, the distribution of the interior spaces, its materials, and its main decorative elements.

A multi-purpose building, it is used by the community as a meeting and reception hall, and as a theatre for plays and artistic performances. The recent restoration work also allowed the fourth-storey attic to be renovated to become a space that can be used to meet the public’s needs.

Architecturally, the Miners’ Union Hall is impressive. Designed by E.J. Weston, an American architect practicing in Los Angeles, the rectangular wooden building has a steeply-pitched gable roof and a central balcony on the upper floor. Its façade is characterized by symmetry and by a number of classical architecture elements, including the windows and doors with triangular pediments, the inset central balcony and its carved wooden ornamentation.

The side facades are also characterized by a symmetry that is highlighted by high rectangular windows providing considerable natural light. Original inscriptions, including “1898” at the central gable, “Miners’ Union” at the balcony, and “Miners’ Union Hall” over the central door, speak to this building’s history.

The Miners’ Hall was one of six people or places recognized as reflecting the diverse aspects of Canada’s heritage, and commemorating Indigenous, education, publishing, military, and architectural history.

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The Rossland Miners’ Hall has been restored physically, but its value also comes from its social and political importance. (File photo)

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