The founder and acarya (one who teaches by example) of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, also known as Srila Prabhupada. He arrived in New York from India in September of 1965, after crossing the Atlantic Ocean on a freighter named The Jaladuta. After spending a month in Butler, Pennsylvania at the home of his sponsor, Srila Prabhupada came back to New York City to spread bhakti-yoga (the yoga of devotion and service to God) throughout the western world. He struggled for almost 6 months, during which he was subject to a bitter New York winter, theft of his meager belongings, and abuse from roommate with addiction. Yet he was determined to bring about a spiritual revolution.
In the summer of 1966, with the help of just two followers, Srila Prabhupada rented a storefront in New York City's Lower East Side at 26 2nd Avenue. The storefront was previously a curio-shop named "Matchless Gifts." This is where Srila Prabhupada would headquarter ISKCON and the Krishna Consciousness would burgeon: Matchless Gifts at 26 2nd Avenue. Later, he often fondly remembered those early days, as he saw the Hare Krishna Movement quickly grow into the worldwide movement we see today. As the number of followers grew, the storefront became too small so the temple moved to larger locations, leaving the humble storefront behind.
About twenty-five years and hundreds of worldwide temples later, the directors of the Hare Krishna temple in Brooklyn were able to regain the space and once again lease the original Hare Krishna temple at 26 2nd Avenue. To commemorate the 25th Anniversary of the founding of ISKCON, members of the temple in Brooklyn renovated the site, rededicated it, and reopened it to the public in July of 1991.
Since that time, Matchless Gifts at 26 2nd Avenue has become a beacon of Krishna Consciousness in New York City. Moreover, to followers of the Hare Krishna movement all over the world it is a sacred place of pilgrimage, a tirtha (holy place).
To learn more about Srila Prabhupada, visit The Prabhupada Connection, an incredible repository of information by and about this great 20th century saint.