Cleveland was one of six cities represented in the first convention on February 4, 1896 to organize the International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers. At that time, delegates from Cleveland reported that their estimated membership was 350. Ironworkers Local 17 Cleveland, Ohio was one of the original locals; however, circumstances delayed its charter until April 27, 1901.
Local 17 is proud to have been involved with International from its inception, and has had its fair share of Local 17 members appointed at the International level. As early as 1901, Local 17 member C.F. Lyons was appointed General Vice President, J.J McNamara followed in 1903-1904 as General Vice President, and then to Secretary/Treasurer from 1904-1912. Local 17 members over the years have followed with appointments. J.E. McClory, served as Secretary/Treasurer 1912-1913, General Vice President 1913-1914, and proceeded to serve as General President from 1914-1918. Our notable member John H. Lyons Sr. served as General Treasurer 1928-1939, as General Secretary from 1939-1948, and as General President from 1948-1961. Retired Local 17 member, Robert E.P. Cooney served from 1957-1961 as General Organizer, with a further appointment as General Vice President from 1961-1985. Brother Cooney is a frequent visitor to his home local union hall.
With the eve of the 20th Century, the city’s first tall buildings were erected. Downtown Cleveland took on a whole new look with the Arcade Building, as well as the Society for Savings, Cuyahoga, Garfield, and the New England buildings all opening. Commercial activity stilled boomed with the Caxton, Rose, Williamson, Scofield, Rockefeller, and Cleveland Athletic Club buildings. Construction of Terminal Tower, the largest building in Cleveland at the time, began in 1923 and was totally erected by 1927. Unfortunately, the Stock Market crash of 1929 put a halt to Cleveland’s boom. The Great Lakes Exposition of 1936 did help create much needed building growth. Five new buildings were constructed for the exposition which included the Hall of Progress, Automotive Building, Horticulture Building, Marine Building, and an amphitheater for a transportation pageant. The onset of WWII and Pearl Harbor put a damper on all Labor Organizations.
The decades that passed between 1950 and 1970 showed how desperately Cleveland needed renovation; all infrastructure and old bridges needed repair, as well as the need for expansion of highways and new bridges. Cleveland has been on the move since; the last three decades have seen a new renaissance including structures like the BP Building, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Key Tower, Great Lakes Science Center, Progressive Field, The Q stadium, and newly constructed Innerbelt Bridge. The years ahead are still promising for Ironworkers in Cleveland and we look forward to being a part of the revitalization of our city.