Broadway Tabernacle Church and Society papers
Language of Materials
Containing materials dating from approximately 1835, this collection includes the organizational records of the Broadway Tabernacle Congregational Church starting in 1836 and traces the institution's evolution through 1980, focusing on the institution's internal machinations as well as its many community outreach programs that ranged from abolitionism to temperance to women's suffrage. A wide range of material is contained in the collection's 110 boxes, from Trustee meeting materials to architectural sketches to newspaper clippings to sermons.
Broadway Tabernacle, a Congregational Church created as a result of the religious upheaval of the 1830s, evolved into an important New York City religious center. Organized in 1836 with the financial help of reformers Lewis and Arthur Tappan as the Broadway Tabernacle Church, the institution boasted Charles Granderson Finney as its first pastor (he also played a key role in designing the building itself), albeit only for one year. After some internal organizational strife, abolitionist Joseph P. Thompson then assumed pastoral duties, guiding the church between 1845 and 1871. In addition to abolitionism (Church members raised funds to defend Africans captured aboard the Amistad and published an anti-slavery newspaper, the Independent), the Church advocated women's suffrage and temperance; not surprisingly, speakers at the Church included William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, and Sojourner Truth. In this progressive vein, the Church granted women voting rights in 1871. Similarly, it sponsored mission activities globally, as well as educational and religious activities locally. Under the leadership of Charles Jefferson between 1897 and 1930, the Church provided weekly canteens for soldiers during World War I, provided a venue for local theatrical productions during the Great Depression, and once again provided weekly canteens to soldiers during the Second World War. For his part, Jefferson helped establish the New York Congregational Home for the Aged and the New York Peace Society. He later advocated for the League of Nations and the World Court. In 1928 the Church ordained a female minister; when Jefferson left two years later, Allan Knight Chalmers took over pastoral duties. A follower of the Social Gospel, Chalmers served as head of the national Scottsboro Defense Committee and as Treasurer of the NAACP. Finally, he, too, continued his predecessors' tradition of pacifism. Later in the twentieth century, the Church fought for global human rights and embraced the ecumenical movement epitomized by the Second Vatican Council. In fact, the Church became an Open and Affirming Congregation of the United Church of Christ in 1991, thus welcoming all worshippers regardless of their sexual orientation. Members supported Habitat for Humanity and ministered to prisoners, women on welfare, and persons with HIV and AIDS.
As New York City mushroomed in size and in population, Broadway Tabernacle coped with demographic shifts and economic challenges, at times even moving its congregation and selling its land. Ultimately, the Church changed its name and moved its physical location multiple times. More specifically, the Church's members worshipped until 1857 in the Broadway Tabernacle, located on Broadway between Worth Street and Catherine Lane, then beginning in 1859 from a new building at 6th Avenue and 34th Street, then from 1905 on in another new building on Broadway and 56th Street. Its name, meanwhile, changed from Broadway Tabernacle Church to Broadway Congregational Church in the early 1950s, then to Broadway United Church of Christ in 1957. Ultimately, the Church shared space with the Church of St. Paul the Apostle (Roman Catholic) starting in 1970, Rutgers Presbyterian Church starting in 1980, and St. Michael's Church (Episcopal) starting in 1985.
By and large, the Church's organization maintained a dual structure that included the Broadway Tabernacle Church and the Broadway Tabernacle Society. Whereas the Church focused on congregational and religious issues, the Society managed financial, real estate, and legal matters. The arrangement proved durable, lasting well over a century. But when the dual structure was dissolved, Broadway Tabernacle Church became the name used for all aspects of Church life and operation. In 1955, moreover, the name of the Church was changed to Broadway Congregational Church; finally, it became Broadway United Church of Christ, a name that remains in use currently.
This collection is organized in ten series:
Series I. Journals, Annual Reports, and Printed Materials
Series II. Papers
Series III. Real Estate
Series IV. Committees and Programs of the Church
Series V. Bethany Congregational Church
Series VI. Martha Memorial Reformed Church
Series VII. Photographs
Series VIII. Architectural Sketches
Series IX. Blueprints and Offprints
Series X. Newspapers and Oversized Materials
Scope and Contents
Containing materials dating from the mid-1830s, this collection includes the official records of the Church beginning in 1836 and traces the institution's evolution through 1980. Register headings and box labels alike reflect changes of name and of location over the 145 years covered by these materials. While the dual structure of the Broadway Tabernacle Church and the Broadway Tabernacle Society has been recognized, it is sometimes difficult to discern which papers belonged to which entity.
The collection includes 110 units: 103 boxes, two oversized folders, two tubes, two metal containers, and a large Bible. Materials include journals, publications, papers, photographs, newspapers, and architectural sketches. Meanwhile, materials from two Missions of Broadway Tabernacle Church retain their distinct status as Bethany Congregational Church and Martha Memorial Reformed Church.
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This collection should be cited as the Broadway Tabernacle Church and Society Papers, MS 74, The New-York Historical Society.
Location of Materials
About this Guide
Collection processed in 2011 by Ruth Mary Pollack and Alex Poole.