The founders of the Sunday Breakfast Association had a simple goal: to provide a breakfast every Sunday for the poor and to bring them under Christian influence.
Well known businessmen John Wanamaker (Wanamaker’s Department Store), John B. Stetson (Stetson Hat Co.), W. Atlee Burpee (Burpee Seed Co.), and former governor James Pollock served as the original trustees.
They rented a building at 11th and Wood Streets in Philadelphia and served the first breakfast on December 15, 1878. More than 250 men ate breakfast and listened as the Bible was read aloud.
The next Sunday more than 500 men attended, and a Bible class was started. Soon a committee was formed to lodge and assist the homeless.
In the 1930s the Board purchased a building at 1120-22 Vine Street in order to sleep people and in 1942, the Mission moved to 6th and Vine. This building contained 800 beds and was the largest gospel rescue mission on the East Coast. Other features included a chapel, an industrial work area, a shelter, a playground for neighborhood children, and a thrift store for families.
The building at 6th & Vine was closed in 1973 to make way for city improvements and the construction of the Vine Street Expressway. At that time, the Mission moved to its current location at 302 N. 13th Street.