Currently Seeking Funding
Solidarity Houses: Architecture and Organized Labor in the US, 1865–1970
Research Project, Begun 2019

Over the course of a century, the US Labor Movement made extensive, so far unexplored use of architecture for both pragmatic and symbolic purposes. By surveying this history, my research addresses patronage of architecture among working class organizations that paralleled and sometimes exceeded the ambitions of more familiar commissions by corporations and elite philanthropists. The chronological scope of this study begins with the terminus of the Civil War—which resulted in a total restructuring of US labor markets through the abolition of slavery—and ends with a peculiar conjunction of organized labor and architecture: the death of architect Oscar Stonorov alongside United Auto Workers founding organizer Walter Reuther in a plane crash while reviewing construction progress at the site of a new UAW retreat in northern Michigan.

Through archival research in Wyoming, Michigan, New York, Maryland, and Virginia, I will explore how architecture was mobilized to serve the goal of class solidarity, what types of spaces were used in this process, and draw a contrast between the styles and forms of architecture that were commissioned by fledgling unions prior to WWII and during labor’s postwar détenté with corporate power.

Wives of United Auto Workers members meet at the union’s headquarters building in Detroit, known as Solidarity House, which was designed by Philadelphia-based modernist architect Oscar Stonorov. Photograph from Walter Reuther Library Collection, Wayne State University.