Finnish Labour Temple National Historic Site of Canada

Thunder Bay, Ontario
Façade of building constructed in 1909-10; C.W. Wheeler, architect, Fred Urry, building consultant. © Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2008 (Michelle Cinanni)
Façade
© Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2008 (Michelle Cinanni)
Façade of building constructed in 1909-10; C.W. Wheeler, architect, Fred Urry, building consultant. © Parks Canada / Parcs Canada, 2008 (Michelle Cinanni)Finnish Labour Temple; between 1910 and 1912 © Lakehead University Archives, 1910/1912A labour demonstration at the Finnish Labour Temple in the 1930s © Lakehead University Archives, 1930's
Address : 314 Bay Street, Thunder Bay, Ontario

Recognition Statute: Historic Sites and Monuments Act (R.S.C., 1985, c. H-4)
Designation Date: 2011-07-19
Dates:
  • 1909 to 1910 (Construction)

Event, Person, Organization:
  • C.W. Wheeler  (Architect)
  • Fred Urry (consultant)  (Builder)
Other Name(s):
  • Finnish Labour Temple  (Designation Name)
  • Big Finn Hall  (Other Name)
  • Finlandia Club of Port Arthur  (Other Name)
Research Report Number: 2009-076

Description of Historic Place

Finnish Labour Temple National Historic Site of Canada is a two-storey, rectangular, brick building located in the heart of the multicultural Bay-Algoma neighbourhood in Thunder Bay, Ontario. The eclectic design consists of two hipped-roof sections joined by a central, gabled-roofed section. The symmetrical facade features a three-storey central polygonal tower, square end bays, regularly arranged windows, and stairs leading up to the porch-covered main entrance. The imposing size of the building speaks to the importance of the area as a centre of Finnish immigration, as it contains offices, meeting rooms, museums and features an original restaurant and large auditorium. It served as a hall for two Finnish organizations representing the active role Finnish Canadians played in the labour movement in Canada. Official recognition refers to the building on its footprint.

Heritage Value

Finnish Labour Temple was designated a National Historic Site of Canada because:
it is an architecturally eclectic building built in 1909-10 to serve as a hall for two Finnish organizations a socialist Local and a temperance society – this imposing labour temple speaks to an era of significant Finnish immigration to Canada, and reflects the active role of many Finns in Canada’s labour movement in the first half of the 20th century as well as their commitment to collective organization to improve the lives of workers and their families;
as a Finnish haali (hall), it played an important social and community role for Finnish immigrants, making available a range of social services and mutual aid, housing newspaper offices, and operating a reading room, library and the Hoito, a cooperative restaurant established in 1918; and,
its spacious auditorium hosted a vibrant mix of theatrical productions, concerts, dances, sporting events and festivals, thus contributing to the expression and later the preservation of Finnish cultural traditions throughout Canada.

The Finnish Labour Temple reflects a period of significant Finnish immigration to Canada during the mid 1870s following the promise of work and unsettled land. Thunder Bay, Ontario became an increasingly popular settlement of Finnish Canadians, leading to the establishment of Finnish culture within the area and the rise of collective organizations. Constructed in 1909-1910, Finnish Labour Temple housed two large Finnish organizations - the Socialist Local and the New Temperance Society, both associated with socialist thought in Canada. The Finnish Labour Temple represents the active role Finnish-Canadians played in the labour movement in Canada and the community’s commitment to political and collective organization. It also acts as a venue for the preservation and celebration of the Finnish community’s unique culture and traditions, reflecting the multiculturalism of the area. Additionally, the Finnish Labour Temple houses the Hoito Restaurant, an internationally acclaimed restaurant established in 1918 which continues to serve traditional Finnish meals. Finnish Labour Temple is an important symbol and landmark to the Finnish community as well as an anchor of Thunder Bay’s Bay-Algoma Street area.

Character-Defining Elements

Key elements that contribute to the heritage character of the site include:
its location in the heart of the multicultural and historically multi-ethnic immigrant Bay-Algoma neighbourhood in Thunder Bay; the original red brick construction; the two hipped-roof sections joined by a gabled-roof central section; the two-storey brick massing, and the facade’s central three-storey polygonal tower topped with a glassed-in cupola, the end bays consisting of square, centrally hipped towers with battlements, each with a two-sided oriel window in the first storey; the stone course along the facade, below the eaves, engraved with the words “LABOR OMNIA VINCIT, 1910”; the regularly placed windows of the facade, and the fewer, irregularly placed windows to the rear; the main entrance of steps leading from ground level to the double-door entrance of the Hoito Restaurant; the one-storey stuccoed addition abutted to the central gabled-roof section; the tall brick chimney at the rear; its interior layout including office space, meeting rooms, a museum, a kitchen, the Hoito Restaurant and an auditorium; the gallery that curves along the back of the auditorium with its remaining original decoration; the original stage floor, including the trapdoor; the original features of the interior spaces.