Since the 1870s, The Bowery Mission has been a place of welcome, care and healing for New Yorkers in need. We are honored to celebrate 150 years of lives transformed from homelessness and poverty to dignity and flourishing.
A movement begins in the slums of Manhattan’s Lower East Side.
As European immigrants flood into New York City, poverty rises. The poorest of the poor crowd into tenements on the Lower East Side.
The construction of the Third Avenue “El” Train darkens the Bowery and contributes to the proliferation of pawnshops, brothels, flophouses and rowdy saloons.
With support and encouragement from the McAuleys, the Reverend Albert (A.G.) Ruliffson and Ellen Ruliffson open The Bowery Mission just one mile away at 14 Bowery.
Deeply moved by the testimony of Jerry McAuley, hymnwriter Fanny Crosby becomes a Mission champion and song leader for nearly three decades.
Jacob Riis publishes How the Other Half Lives, a photo essay documenting conditions on the Bowery and Lower East Side. It remains the earliest chronicle of homelessness in NYC.
The Christian Herald publishing company founds Mont Lawn Camp in Nyack, NY, to serve children from New York City tenements.
The Christian Herald purchases The Bowery Mission, saving it from potential closure.
Progressive Era & Prohibition
The Mission fights widespread hunger and unemployment.
The Mission opens its famous bread line to serve a winter influx of seasonal workers on our streets. Between Thanksgiving and Easter, it could serve 2,000+ “breadliners” on a busy night.
To fight unemployment, the Mission opens a Free Labor Bureau that connects New Yorkers with work outside the city. Transportation is provided to locations as far as 50 miles away.
The Mission opens its chapel at 227 Bowery and finds a lasting home in the Bowery neighborhood. President Taft visits to dedicate the chapel and offer his support.
During Prohibition, the Mission serves thousands poisoned by “Smoke,” a deadly mixture of water and methanol. In a bad season, Smoke deaths on the Bowery average one a day.
Great Depression & WWII
The Mission serves thousands of the newly unemployed.
The stock market crash leads to widespread unemployment and a large surge in those seeking help on the Bowery. Throngs of the newly poor crowd into the Mission day and night.
When The Bowery Mission nears financial collapse during the Great Depression, J.C. Penney, America’s most famous retailer, personally invests to make the Mission debt-free.
The Mission’s chapel services are broadcast live on national radio. They feature testimonies of changed lives and descriptions from the unemployed of their skills and need for work.
MGM releases This is the Bowery, a short film about a man who takes his first step toward redemption after a meal, bed and inspiring talk at The Bowery Mission.
Clark Poling, a military chaplain and son of the Mission’s president, dies in service to our country. One of the famed “Four Chaplains,” he is celebrated as a legend of faith and courage.
The Mission becomes a fixture of the nation’s most iconic Skid Row.
With the introduction of the G.I. Bill and other social programs, Bowery flophouses begin to empty out. Our doors remain open to old-timers and newcomers alike.
Anabaptist farming communities from PA rally to supply goods and volunteers to the Mission. For more than 50 years, volunteer driver Paul Beyers continues the tradition of generosity — which remains strong to this day.
Lionel Rogosin releases On the Bowery, forever immortalizing life in New York City’s skid row. In the film, Mission leader George Bolton addresses a crowd in our historic chapel.
In response to increased suburbanization, our Mont Lawn Camp moves to its current home on 200 acres in the Poconos Region of Pennsylvania.
Weeks after Martin Luther King, Jr. is assassinated, children from our camp program travel to Boston University to perform a moving concert in homage to the Civil Rights leader.
Frank Grande seeks refuge at the Mission after a near-death encounter on the streets. Later, he paints our doors their iconic red in homage to his life transformation.
A New Homelessness
The Mission adapts to serve new faces and new needs.
A new homelessness emerges that combines lack of shelter with higher levels of poverty, illness and isolation. In response, the Mission develops a more clinical and pastoral approach.
The Mission purchases and renovates 229 Bowery to provide a larger dining area and new sleeping quarters. Growth in meals served leads to a new focus on volunteer support.
At the height of NYC’s crack epidemic, former businessman James Macklin has a life-changing encounter while sleeping on the train. He serves as our Outreach Director today.
In response to increasing demand among women for services, the Mission launches an initiative that provides women with compassionate care and job skills training.
Christian Herald ceases to publish magazines and renews its focus on caring for New Yorkers under The Bowery Mission name.
Into a New Millenium
The Mission weathers crisis and expands to new neighborhoods.
Following the 9/11 attacks, the Mission becomes a refuge for fleeing workers — and a supply point for the recovery effort.
The Mission completes a historic renovation of its 227 Bowery property and recommits to another century of service and beyond.
The Mission expands its long-term care by opening new Residential Programs for adults on the Upper East Side (2005), Harlem (2012) and East Harlem (2013).
When Hurricane Sandy leads to widespread power outages, the Mission sets up generators and becomes a lifeline for New Yorkers temporarily without food and shelter.
The Mission opens Mont Lawn City Camp in the South Bronx and East Harlem to serve children and families year-round.
The Bowery Mission joins forces with New York City Rescue Mission, leveraging nearly 300 years of combined service to better serve the needs of New Yorkers in crisis.
When the COVID-19 pandemic sends NYC into lockdown, the Mission keeps its doors open to provide meals, shelter and hygiene care for people with nowhere to “shelter in place.”
The Bowery Mission celebrates its inspiring legacy — 150 years of lives transformed in New York City. To this day, the Mission has remained a helping hand for all New Yorkers in need. And thanks to our faithful supporters, the Mission has become so much more — now offering life-transforming services for both adults and children. Our programs are comprehensive yet individualized, provided in the context of a caring community and deep faith.
Learn more about how you can support the life-transforming work of The Bowery Mission.Learn More