Award Type: Honor Award
Laborers' Union Local 860, which is a part of the Laborers International Union of North America, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is the first local union to receive a Preservation Honor Award.
When William Palmer Southworth, a prominent Cleveland businessman who became president of National City Bank, constructed his lavish Italianate mansion on Prospect Ave. in 1879, he spared no expense. Nearly 130 years later Laborers' Union Local 860 meticulously returned the dilapidated home and carriage house on the eastern edge of downtown Cleveland to their original opulent splendor.
In the decades between, the mansion was used as a home for poor Baptist widows, an office for accountants and, in probably its most plaster-damaging incarnation, as a college fraternity house. By the time Laborers' Union Local 860 was looking for a new headquarters, the home on Prospect Ave. was severely deteriorated, and the building's top floor housed only a flock of pigeons. Fortunately, important period details survived, including a large porch with fanlight windows, a gracious grand staircase and mahogany fireplaces.
Under the leadership of union leader Anthony Liberatore, Jr., Local 860 decided in 2006 to purchase, restore and adapt the Southworth Mansion using the latest information and security systems, as well as green technology. Approximately 50 skilled union men and women used their talents to rehabilitate the building, and William Palmer Southworth's own bank, National City, partnered with Local 860 to obtain tax credits that resulted in significant savings for the $2.8-million project. Decades of clumsy alterations were removed, and handsome period details were restored or recreated to recover as much of the building's original character as possible. An enclosed porch, once near collapse, now provides meeting space, while elegant woodwork in hallways and offices testifies that this is no run-of-the-mill union hall.
"What a success story," said Richard Moe, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. "The rehabilitation of the Southworth Mansion created jobs and spurred additional preservation projects in Cleveland's MidTown neighborhood, all the while demonstrating there's no building that's more green or more sustainable than a historic building given new life."
Along with Laborers' Union Local 860, the Cleveland Restoration Society was honored as a co-recipient of the award.