Glace Bay Universal Negro Improvement Association
Links and documents
1918/01/01 to 1918/12/31
Listed on the Canadian Register:
Statement of Significance
Description of Historic Place
The Glace Bay Universal Negro Improvement Association Hall is located on Jessome Street in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. The hall is long and narrow with a front door and a ramp leading to a back side door. Both the building and the land are included in the municipal designation.
The Glace Bay Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) Hall is valued for its associations with the history of the Universal Negro Improvement Association and the Black community of Glace Bay; and as the current home to the UNIA Cultural Museum.
The hall was built in 1918 in response to the movement started in 1914 by publisher and activist Marcus Garvey. Garvey, originally from Jamaica, became an internationally known promoter of social, political, and economic freedom for Blacks. In 1914 Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. Soon associations were established throughout the United States and Canada. His philosophy is known of have influenced Civil Rights leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. There were once 1100 branches world wide, however approximately only 20 remain today. The hall in Glace Bay is the only one of the original halls remaining in Canada.
Historically, the building served the needs of the UNIA and as a community centre for the Black residents of the Glace Bay area. Early in its existence the hall served as a hotel for workers who came from the West Indies to work at a near-by coal mine. Unable to afford a home of their own, as miners had to repay the costs of their travel to the mine company, the hall was a home for months and sometimes years to many Black miners. The building also served the spiritual needs for the Black community of Glace Bay as it held wakes and weddings. Since the 1920s, the hall as been the host to a series of annual events celebrating the accomplishments of Marcus Garvey.
In recent years the building fell into disrepair; however it was saved from demolition. After extensive renovations, the Glace Bay UNIA operates the hall as a cultural museum dedicated to African Canadians in Cape Breton. The hall also continues to serve as a gathering place and community centre where regular classes and events are held. The building no longer retains many of its original architectural elements; however it nonetheless continues to play an important role in the community.
Source: Cape Breton Regional Municipality; Municipal Heritage Files; Glace Bay UNIA Hall
Character-defining elements of the Glace Bay Universal Negro Improvement Association hall include:
- exterior ramp to ensure all community members access;
- single storey;
- long and narrow massing;
- gable roof;
- UNIA Cultural Museum sign on front facade;
- proximity to coal mine.
Local Governments (NS)
Heritage Property Act
Municipally Registered Property
1918/01/01 to 2006/01/01
2006/01/01 to 2008/01/01
Theme - Category and Type
- Building Social and Community Life
- Social Movements
Function - Category and Type
- Social, Benevolent or Fraternal Club
Architect / Designer
Location of Supporting Documentation
CBRM Heritage Property Files 320 Esplanade, Sydney
Cross-Reference to Collection