Since 1889, the Market Street Mission has been helping deliver people from actual or impending calamity by using the good news of Christ.
Mrs. Louisa Graves Owen, the wife of Rev. Dr. F.W. Owen, had been holding women’s Bible study classes in her home. When she realized that almost all the husbands of the wives in her classes were alcoholics, she and her husband rented the building at 9 Market Street to set up a residential program for alcoholic men. At that time, Market Street was known as Rum Alley or Rum Lane because of all the bars and saloons on the street.
The Market Street Mission opened its doors at 9 Market Street on March 18, 1889. From the beginning, the Market Street Mission provided meals, lodging, clothing and temporary employment for homeless men. The South Street Presbyterian Church supported the organization of the Mission in an effort to reach people who were not regularly attending area churches.
On that first night George Redding, aged 61, became the Mission’s first convert…
For the next five years until his death, he testified almost nightly that God had saved him from “rum, beer, cider, and opium.”
In its early years the Mission held day and night meetings for men, women, and children.
These meetings were the central events of the Mission. But other programs included two ice water fountains, jail ministry, family visits, and children’s activities.
In November of 1892, the Mission added a reading room which was open to all.
Beginning in 1897, men could come to the Market Street Mission to find temporary work at the wood yard. The Mission gave away little in the way of meals and lodgings; men worked for their room and board. If a man drank, he could be paid on orders to a local merchant so that his family could benefit from his earnings.
A Gospel Wagon (a two-horse truck), added in 1898, facilitated outdoor meetings which were held all over Morris County. Total attendance at meetings in 1898 was 31,820.
On February 2, 1898, a fire destroyed the Mission’s rented quarters. They set up temporary quarters across the street, however, and did not miss one meeting. The Mission then built a new building on the original site, which was opened on November 21, 1898.
A Christ-centered message and hard work have always been central components of the Market Street Mission’s recovery programs.
Another important aspect of our service to the community is to respond to the needs of the people. During 1926, a series of explosions at the Picatinny Arsenal left many families without shelter or clothing. The Market Street Mission helped provide shelter and care for those displaced after that disaster.
During the Great Depression, the Mission responded to the overwhelming needs of the people in and around Morristown by greatly expanding the services it provided. The following chart shows the dramatic increase in employment, lodging, and meals that the Mission provided during the early years following the Depression:
The Industrial Department (now known as the Thrift Store) was added in the 1930’s. Just as is the case today, household articles and clothing were picked up then sold in the Thrift Store. The operation was so successful that it became self-supporting within two months. It also provided much-needed jobs during a time of unprecedented unemployment.
The Mission officially ended its affiliation with the Presbyterian Church in 1933. In 1971, the George Street building, which now houses the Thrift Store, was opened to house the Industrial Department. During the 1970’s, the Mission became home to the Morris County Social Detoxification Center for men and women, and also hosted a coffee house called One Way Coffee House where young people could come for food, coffee, and informal counseling on Friday and Saturday nights.
Over the years, the men have gotten younger: the average age of a resident in 1965 was 55, 45 in 1975 and in the late 20’s or early 30’s today.
Our men’s recovery program curriculum remained the same for almost 100 years. Over the last few decades, however, we have added new alcohol and drug treatment strategies to our residential recovery program. Today, our program targets whole life recovery, addressing the spiritual, physical and emotional needs of our guests. This holistic approach has led to greater long-term success for our graduates.
Over the years, we added a Career Education Center where men can learn computer skills in a professional atmosphere. Counseling offices were added that provide a confidential setting for sharing and growth and classes were added where men can learn new life skills in a comfortable and structured setting. Our services continued to grow, and space became a premium.
In 1994, extensive renovations to the building at 9 Market Street were made. However, problems of space continued to compromise the Mission’s programs.
In 2001, the Mission opened a new facility at 10 Bank Street to accommodate our expanding services. It now houses the Career Education Center, additional counseling offices, a recreation & exercise floor, a kitchen pantry facility, a shelter for transitional guests and the Mission’s administrative offices.
In 2017 we renovated once again and opened an outpatient counseling center available to the community at large.