Monday, February 1, 2010

The Labor Temple On 14th Street

Labor Temple
A couple of posts ago Stephen Lewis reminded me of the historic significance of the labor temple on 14th Street. I did some research. Lo and behold it was right by the second avenue stop I often used to return to Knickerbocker from Stuyvesant. The Temple and it's leader, Reverend Dr. Edmund Chaffee, were deemed subversives in the late nineteen teens and early 1920's as part of the first Red Scare
Some additional info. from the American Guild Of Organists
Fourteenth Street Presbyterian Church - New York City
Labor Temple was founded in 1910 by the Rev. Charles L. Stelze of the Presbyterian Home Mission Board. The first Labor Temple occupied the former Fourteenth Street Presbyterian Church, located at 225 Second Avenue near Union Square, and built in 1851. Under Stelze's leadership, Labor Temple would be "entirely unsectarian, where every man, if he have a message, may give it expression, and if it be good it will receive attention." On its opening day, Labor Temple was attended by five hundred members of labor unions, Socialist, Anarchists, and persons who took interest in labor matters and sociologists.
In 1924, developers built a new Labor Temple that fronted 14th Street on the site of the former church. Emory Roth designed the six-story building that included a chapel, an auditorium, and a gymnasium for the temple, and additional commercial space was provided and controlled by the developers. The Labor Temple disbanded in 1957, after which the building was used by the Presbyterian Church of the Crossroads and, later, Congregation Tifereth Israel.

from Time Magazine of 1934
Bold and optimistic indeed is the man who sets up shop as a religious journalist. Small in number, his subscribers are choosy, opinionated. Few church magazines are currently given denominational subsidies. Almost no big advertisers buy space in them. (Exception: the homey, nondenominational Christian Herald.) With theological controversy and petty driblets of church news as his stock-in-trade, the religious editor must cut his thoughts to a consistent pattern. And of all denominations the one whose journalists are the most orthodox is the Presbyterian Church in the U. S. A. Its magazines are: The Presbyterian (conservative weekly), The Presbyterian Ban ner (middle-of-the-road weekly), Christianity Today (arch-Fundamentalist monthly) and The Presbyterian Advance. The last, a journal founded 24 years ago, has, like many another church paper, accumulated a handsome deficit—$101,044. Last week it became known The Presbyterian Advance would cease publishing this month. Undeterred by the hazards of the field a Manhattan preacher was ready to take it over, call it The Presbyterian Tribune and give Presbyterians nothing less than a liberal journal.
Editor of the new biweekly is Rev. Dr. Edmund B. Chaffee, an energetic, square-faced, 40-year-old churchman with a great passion for social betterment. Born near Detroit, he studied law at the University of Michigan, went to Union Theological Seminary, got a Manhattan pastorate in 1916 which he promptly lost because of his pacifism. Mr. (as he prefers to be called) Chaffee served in Jerusalem as a Red Cross captain. When he returned to the U. S. he took the job he still holds—director of the Presbyterian Labor Temple on Manhattan's radical 14th Street. Founded by the New York Presbytery which, to the great pain of its conservative members, foots half its bills, the Labor Temple is a forum for people of all sects. Because "people who are willing to work among Labor should live among them." Director Chaffee lives with his wife and two children on the top floor. A grey-haired, wiry man who much resembles Economist Stuart Chase, he sits on New York's Central Trades and Labor Council as a representative of the city churches, is head of the pacifist Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Though Methodists and Congregationalists are more famed for radical zeal, there are nevertheless plenty of Presbyterian liberals. To those members of his great, cautious, rock-like church Editor Chaffee will address himself, avoiding theological controversy. Says he: "We seek unity in the Presbyterian Church, not divisions." Guided by a council of able Manhattan pastors, The Presbyterian Tribune will be backed by Presbyterians whose names he declines to reveal.

Last week 30 New York ministers signed a petition urging the American Federation of Labor to grant a charter to the Ministers' Union of America. Local No. 1. The petition was seconded by the Manhattan teachers', musicians' and typographers' unions.
That a ministers' union even existed was news to many a churchgoer. Actually the Manhattan local, first of its kind, is four years old, has thus passed the period of probation necessary to A. F. of L. affiliation. Interracial and interdenominational, it was founded with the help of Presbyterian Rev. Edmund B. Chaffee, now editor of the Presbyterian Tribune, holds its monthly meetings at his Labor Temple in radical 14th Street (TIME, Sept. 24). Though the union members know that ministers' salaries are unstable, averaging $2,500 a year throughout the U. S., they sedulously avoid suggesting that raising them is their aim. Their stated purpose is to express religion's approval of ''the right and necessity of organization on the part of all those who labor with hand and brain." Likewise they wish to promote the use of union goods and services in churches, help strikers' families, secure proper mediation in strikes, take active part in picketing, and get ministers in other communities to unionize.
President of the Manhattan local is Rev. Dr. David M. Cory, Brooklyn Presbyterian who won his labor spurs and a mauling by police when he picketed the Brooklyn Edison Co. two years ago. Vice President is Rev. William Lloyd Imes, Negro pastor of Harlem's St. James Presbyterian Church. Others of the 75 union members: Rabbis Israel Goldstein, Alexander Lyons and Sidney Goldstein; Dean Henry Pitney Van Dusen of Union Theological Seminary; Presbyterian Rev. Cameron P. Hall; Methodist Rev. F. Theodore Minor. Least parochial to carry a union card is Rev. James Myers, able researcher, idealistic unionizer, industrial secretary of the Federal Council of Churches.

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