IBEW celebrates heritage with opening of Henry Miller Museum

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HISTORIC MOMENT: Thursday, Sept. 15 marked a historic moment in time for the IBEW as it celebrated the grand opening of the Henry Miller Museum in St. Louis – the same building where the IBEW was founded 125 years ago. – Labor Tribune photo
HISTORIC MOMENT: Thursday, Sept. 15 marked a historic moment in time for the IBEW as it celebrated the grand opening of the Henry Miller Museum in St. Louis – the same building where the IBEW was founded 125 years ago. – Labor Tribune photo

Union was founded in the exact same building 125 years ago in St. Louis

By SHERI GASSAWAY
Correspondent

It was an historic day for the IBEW as its union leaders unveiled the much anticipated Henry Miller Museum and Founders Park. It is the same building where the union was founded in St. Louis 125 years ago.

The museum’s Sept. 15 dedication ceremony coincided with the kick-off of the IBEW’s 39th International Convention here in St. Louis. Hundreds of IBEW leaders, convention delegates from the United States and Canada and local lawmakers attended the event.

IBEW Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs said the project would not have been possible without the great support of IBEW International President Lonnie Stephenson, International Secretary/Treasurer Sam Chilia and the International Executive Council.

“These gentlemen got behind this project early and made it all happen,” Jacobs said. “Additionally, we’ve had 800 locals and different members that have contributed to the fundraising for this building and I want to thank all of them because they made this possible.”

The brick building, located at 2728 Dr. Martin Luther King Dr., had once served as a boardinghouse, where Henry Miller, IBEW’s first president, lived. It’s where Miller and nine other men founded the IBEW and held the first convention in 1891.

IBEW Local 1 purchased the abandoned building last fall, and construction on the $6 million all-union project began late last year. Local 1 was committed to returning the building to its original style as much as possible so visitors will see what Miller saw in his day.

A TRIP BACK IN TIME: Hundreds of delegates attending the IBEW 39th International Convention took a trip back in time as they toured the Henry Miller Museum and Founder’s Park after its dedication ceremony Sept. 15. – Labor Tribune photo
A TRIP BACK IN TIME: Hundreds of delegates attending the IBEW 39th International Convention took a trip back in time as they toured the Henry Miller Museum and Founder’s Park after its dedication ceremony Sept. 15. – Labor Tribune photo

COMMITMENT TO ORGANIZING

Stephenson told the crowd that when he first visited the museum last year and walked into the room where Henry Miller stayed, the hair stood up on the back of his neck.

“What our founding fathers had was a commitment to organizing everyone in the electrical industry,” Stephenson said. “And while we have access to resources our founders never dreamed of, that commitment remains at the heart of every IBEW member today. This old boardinghouse stands as a testament to that.”

Chilia agreed: “Being able to walk these halls that Henry Miller walked himself is inspirational to me and all of us, and it gives me the fuel as we open these proceedings. It’s a historical moment for the IBEW.”

THANKS AND CONGRATULATIONS

Jacobs also thanked IBEW Local 1439 Business Manager Mike Walter, IBEW/NECA Director of Governmental Affairs Tim Green (a Local 1 member and former Missouri state senator) and Local 1 business representatives Dave Roth and John Kahrhoff.

He applauded the four for the integral roles they played in turning the dream of opening the museum into a reality. “Without their passion and commitment, this building and park wouldn’t be here today,” Jacobs said.

Other speakers offering their congratulations at the dedication ceremony included: IBEW 11th District International Vice President Curtis Henke, St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay’s Chief of Staff Mary Ellen Ponder, St. Louis Board of Aldermen President Louis Reed, Ward 19 Alderwoman Marlene Davis and St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger.

The Electrical Workers Historical Society, a 501(C)3 tax-exempt organization, has been in charge of managing and raising the funding to cover the cost of the project’s renovations. It will also oversee ongoing maintenance.

For more information about the museum or to donate, visit nbew-ibewmuseum.org.

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