Places that Matter

War Resisters League Building

click on image for slideshow
Cut the Military Budget Banner, A.J.Muste Institute
Cut the Military Budget Banner, A.J.Muste Institute
Talks, Not Troops! Banner, A.J.Muste Institute
Building exterior overview, A.J.Muste Institute
A center for pacifist activism
Place Details »

Place Matters Profile

The "Peace Pentagon" has served, in its own terminology, as a "'sanctuary' for the movement" for 35 years. Owned since 1978 by the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute, the building provides highly subsidized office space to left-focused pacifist organization ranging from the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom to the Metropolitan Council on Housing and Paper Tiger Television.

The Peace Pentagon, as some call the building, is easy to miss despite its central location at the busy intersection of Lafayette and Bleeker Streets, a block up from Houston Street. Its ground-floor boutiques fit in nicely amid the bustling expansion of NoHo; only the War Resisters League logo (two hands clutching a rifle snapped in two) and leftist banners visible in the second-floor windows give the Peace Pentagon away.

The organizational strategy employed by the Muste Institute -- providing grants in the form of in-kind office donations, funded in large part by renting the ground floors at commercial rates -- has proved remarkably effective. The Peace Pentagon has remained for over 30 years in a prime area of the city with no sign of failure, giving the building's tenants a deeply seated sense of security and stability.

The building's established history as a home to activist organizations begins with one of its present tenants, the War Resisters League. The league is one of the nation's oldest pacifist organizations, formally organized in 1923 by men and women who had opposed World War One and war in general. The War Resisters League protested the Second World War, and after the war ended, greatly expanded its scope of work to include agitating for civil rights and against nuclear weapons and power. League members founded Pacifica Radio in 1949, while the league itself helped launch Liberation Magazine in the 1950s and organized innumerable public protests of every major American military campaign since WWII.