The municipal lodging house agitated at that time is now a fact. It has been duplicated. On February 19th, 1893, in the Church of the Covenant on Park Avenue, I made the suggestion, and it was published in the papers the following day, that there was a splendid opportunity for a philanthropist to invest a few million dollars at five per cent. in a few lodging houses on a gigantic scale. What connection the Mills Hotels bear to that suggestion, I do not know, but they are the exact fulfilment of it.
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A few years in that work gave me a terrific feeling of hopelessness, and I longed for some other form of church work where I could obviate some of the work of the Bowery. The best a man could do on the Bowery was to save a few old stranded wrecks; but the work among children appealed to me now with far greater force. I also saw the necessity of the preacher touching not only the spiritual side of a man, but the material side also. A preacher’s function, as I understood it after these experiences, was to touch the whole round sphere of life.
A CHURCH IN THE GHETTO
About this time the old church of Sea and Land at the corner of Market and Henry streets was to be put up for auction. The New York Presbytery wanted to sell it and devote most of the money to the building up of uptown churches. I was sent there by the missionary society to hold the place until they got a good price for it. I gathered the trustees around me—a splendid band of devout men, mostly young men—and I did not need to tell them that it was a forlorn hope. They already knew it.
We outlined a plan of campaign to save the church for that community, and the result is that the church is there to-day. Of course, the district is largely Jewish, but there were enough Gentiles to fill a dozen churches.
It was inevitable that we should get in touch with the Jewish children. We had a kindergarten, but made it known to the Jewish community that we were not in the business of proselyting, and that they need have no hesitation in sending their children to our kindergarten, which was a great blessing to the whole community. Sunday evenings in the spring and fall, I spoke to large congregations of Jewish people from the steps of the church, on the spirit of Jewish history—as to what it had done for the world and what it could still do.
I think it was in the early part of 1893 that I began my work there. It was the year of the panic, and the East Side was in a general state of stringency and starvation. A group of ministers of various denominations got together and devised a plan for a cheap restaurant in which we were to sell meals at cost.