Temple architecture

Owner begins reconstruction process after Finnish Labor Temple fire

THUNDER BAY – The process of demolishing and cleaning up the Temple of Finnish Labor is underway after a Christmas fire left the structure unsalvageable.

“It’s obviously a very sad day. You know, the fire was very tragic and it was a very, very sad event. And, the purpose of it all for the building to finally be demolished today is heartbreaking, but necessary,” said Brad McKinnon, owner.

“It’s something we need to do moving forward and it’s the next step in a long journey to rebuild Finland’s temple of work.”

The demolition process went smoothly except for one incident in which an excavator slipped and sank into the rubble. The machine was quickly dug out by another excavator and managed to right itself in about 15 minutes, without injuring the operator inside.

Once the Finnish Labor Temple and the Kivela are dismantled and cleaned, there will be two structures that will take their place. The total square footage will be 80,000 square feet, nearly three times the condos’ original planned footprint.

McKinnon still plans to have the original facade of the Finnish Labor Temple recreated because he says he knows how high the historical value is for Thunder Bay residents.

“Well, the heritage designation basically died with the building. So there really is no designation on the property at this time. But as I said before, it is my personal mission to rebuild the facade of the building in the same way, with the same architectural design in which it was built,” said Mckinnon.

“So the facade of the building, the tower, the dome, the grand entrance that people have become accustomed to will be rebuilt in the same way. Same colors, same proportions.

The new construction is expected to last two to three years, and McKinnon says the Hoito will not be returned to the basement. The restaurant will instead be located on the first floor with the possibility of adding a patio. The first floor location will improve accessibility as well as better lighting.

McKinnon and his team are also looking for the time capsule buried somewhere in the foundation. They are working with the Thunder Bay Historical Society and a few individuals from the Finnish community who are going through the records to try to find exactly where the time capsule is.

“We know it’s somewhere in the foundation, maybe near the foundation and maybe in the corner facing Bay and Algoma. So we’re going to be very careful once we get to that point and knock down the foundation walls and then we’ll look for it,” he said.

“I hope it was not destroyed by fire and I hope we can carefully tear it out of the concrete walls or foundations and turn it over to the Historical Society. It would be really fantastic to see what’s inside and make it accessible to community members.