US Protestant clergyman and civic reformer. Eager to adapt Christianity to urban problems and involve students, he saw the creation of a settlement house as a means of accomplishing both goals. He and his family and four students were the first inhabitants of Chicago Commons (1894), which eventually occupied a new building and became a model of settlement house design. Equally active in the Chicago Theological Seminary and in the settlement house movement, he became convinced of the need for trained social workers and helped initiate the first professional course in social work at the University of Chicago (1903).
Taylor was born in Schenectady, New York. Ordained in 1873, he served the Dutch Reformed church in Hopewell, New York (1873–80). Becoming the pastor of the Fourth Congregational Church in West Hartford, Connecticut (1880–92), he worked with wayward men and was appointed a professor at the Hartford Theological Seminary (1888) where he taught urban missionary techniques. He left Hartford to head a new department of Christian sociology at the Chicago Theological Seminary – the first institution in the United States to establish such a department (1892–1924). While at the seminary he wrote his first book, Religion in Social Action (1913).
He declined the presidency of the seminary (1906) but served as acting president for two years. He appointed his daughter director of Chicago Commons in 1921, while continuing to formulate policy and raise funds and work on other civic projects involving labour mediation, education, politics, and social reform.