Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Unusual Building Was Union Hall, Church

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Unusual Building Was Union Hall, Church

Article excerpt

Byline: Sandy Strickland

Dear Call Box: There is an unusual concrete building on Liberty Street just north of 23rd Street. What is or was its purpose? It is surrounded by a tall wrought iron fence.

C.H., Jacksonville

Dear C.H.: The facility at 3315 N. Liberty St. does catch the eye, even though it's unoccupied. From around 1975-2009, it was the home of the Jacksonville Hall of the Seafarers International Union. At its zenith, it had nine one-bedroom apartments, three large banquet rooms, private offices, a swimming pool/barbecue pit area and a commercial kitchen with walk-in cooler and freezer.

During those years, it was open Monday through Saturday and served as a hiring hall, among other uses, said Dan Duncan, executive secretary-treasurer for the Maritime Trades Department of the AFL-CIO. Members checked a magnetic board listing the ships and what and when jobs were available. It was also where they applied for pension checks, took care of other paperwork and sat and relaxed for a bit.

In addition, the North Florida Central Labor Council held meetings in the facility, Duncan said. Its banquet hall served as a dining venue for political and labor organization events. For a time, the kitchen was a training facility for mariners planning to work in ships' galleys, he said.

Union officials, including Duncan, bunked in the apartments before finding permanent quarters. For a while, members who lived out of town would spend a night or two before catching a ship until regulations forced them to do away with the practice, he said.

It was quite a facility, another former labor representative recalled.

Before the union acquired the facility, it was home to Liberty Street Baptist Church. Former member Sarah Wood Hunt, who was baptized there in 1952, said the building was nothing fancy then and had no wrought iron gates or some of its later amenities. Wyllie Hodges Jr., executive director of First Coast Crime Stoppers, concurred, estimating that the church was built in the late 1940s. His father, Wyllie Hodges Sr., was the church's pastor until his death in 1958. …

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