Cornell logo and name Cornell University Cornell University ILR School
Woman sewing in a garment shop

The Kheel Center ILGWU Collection

Div shadow


Summer Fun at Unity House


With the summer season soon approaching and vacation on many minds, where does one go to find an easily accessible, all inclusive resort that promises lots of fun and activities at an affordable price? Well, for the members of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union, the answer is Unity House. Early in the union's history, unity houses developed as a novel idea to offer vacation centers administered by locals for their members to escape from the city and their grueling work and enjoy the outdoors and each other. In 1919, Local 25 purchased Unity House in Forest Park, Pennsylvania, the site of a former hotel, as a reasonably priced place for members to vacation. At the 1924 convention, ownership of the resort passed to the International, who would be better equipped to handle the increased attendance, while enlarging and improving the facilities for members of all the locals in the union, their families and guests.

Located on 750 acres of forest at the base of the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, the accommodations at Unity House included all the amenities of a luxury resort at affordable rates. The one and a half mile lake was the center of all aquatic activities including swimming, boating and canoeing, and fishing. Numerous sports were organized for guests to enjoy such as tennis, baseball and basketball. Plus, the calendar was always full with daily social activities of dancing, roller skating and night time campfires. The time spent at Unity House offered guests pursuits beyond recreation, but education too, with a library, theater, and visiting artists and lectures. The staff and social directors were on hand to make sure every guest had a great time.

Season after season, the International continued to build, renovate, and improve the facilities to accommodate the increased attendance of members, families and especially their children. Throughout its history, Unity House continued its mission of providing an inexpensive getaway for the members of the ILGWU. And it was that belief in keeping rates low and affordable that ultimately led to the closing of Unity House in 1989, as the resort was operating at a loss. Fortunately, the extensive records of the International Ladies' Garment Workers' Union are housed at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation & Archives at Cornell University. Information regarding the history of Unity House can be found within the collection. Through photographs, videos, pamphlets, letters and newsletters, the memory of Unity House and its unique role in the lives of union members' lives on in the archives.

Read a pamphlet about Unity House

Watch a video:  Unity House

View photographs of Unity House:
Main gate at Unity House
Aerial View of the grounds
Fire at Unity House
Taking a break at Unity House