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January/February 2005 IBEW Journal

A three-story, brick-front dance hall in St. Louis would seem to have very little in common with a gleaming new glass and steel building on a corner of downtown, Washington, D.C. But they represent two important beginnings for the IBEW, the first as the unions humble birthplace; the second as its newest headquarters.

In between lies a series of moves that have taken the unions home across the country: from St. Louis to Rochester, New York to Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Illinois and back to Washington, D.C. This time, the IBEW has relocated across town, taking the IBEW from a neighborhood near the White House that it has called home since the 1920s.

1891 Stolleys Dance Hall
St. Louis, Missouri

The IBEW has come a long way from its storied beginnings in the Stolleys Dance Hall in 1891, when a small group of linemen and wireman came together to seek a better life for electrical workers everywhere.

While the IBEW struggled to gain a foothold in the emerging electrical industry, administration took a back seat to organizing, negotiating and establishing standards in a dangerous field.

Early on, business was conducted "out of the pliers pockets of local union secretaries," as one IBEW history puts it. The homes of the Grand President or Grand Secretary (as the top officers were then known) doubled as the unions headquarters. Most of the early years of the IBEW were centered around St. Louis.

1898 Powers Building
Rochester, New York

By 1897, Rochester, New Yorks H.W. Sherman was elected Grand Secretary, so the union headquarters moved to the Northeast. It stayed at a downtown Rochester office building for six years. In 1903, the IBEW moved to Washington, D.C., where it occupied two rooms in the old Corcoran Building at Pennsylvania Avenue and Fifteenth Street, NW.

1905 Pierik Building
Springfield, Illinois

Two years later, the IBEW moved westward, this time to Springfield, Illinois, with the IBEWs first full-time, salaried officer of the Brotherhood, Frank McNulty. From 1905 to 1919, through a factional split that threatened to tear the young union apart, the IBEW called Springfield its home. In 1920, a united IBEW moved once again to Washington, D.C., where it has spent the past 84 years.

1929 IBEW Building
1200 15th Street NW
Washington, D.C.

By 1929, the IBEW lefts its rented quarters in the Machinists building and purchased its own headquarters building, an eight-story structure at 1200 15th Street, NW.

1955 IBEW Building,
1200 15th Street NW
(renovated and expanded)

With the organizing successes of the IBEW and the ascension of the labor movement in general, the building at 1200 15th Street became a symbol of a growing union. In 1935, a new addition nearly doubled the useable space. Then in 1955, the entire interior and exterior of the building was renovated. A few years later, as the unions membership approached the one million mark, the IBEW broke ground on at building a half block away, at 1125 15th Street, NW. The 12-story "all-electric" building opened in 1972 and was dedicated to great fanfare in 1973.

1973 IBEW Building
1125 15th Street NW

Thirty years later, the officers once again were faced with the choice of where to place the symbolic home of the IBEW. Although the building at 1125 15th Street had been well-maintained, it was showing signs of age. The heating and cooling system needed replacement, as did the elevators. Structural problems also needed attention. After 32 years at 1125 15th Street and 76 years within the same one-block area, the IBEW would move to the rejuvenated East End of Washington.


The New I.O.
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