"In this same New Bedford there stands a Whaleman's Chapel, and few are the moody fishermen, shortly bound for the Indian Ocean or Pacific, who fail to make a Sunday visit to the spot."
. . . Herman Melville, Moby-Dick, 1851
The people of New Bedford were not exactly enchanted with the arduous and licentious lifestyles of the 5,000 seaman New Bedford employed. In response, the Port Society constructed a Mariners Chapel in 1831 and dedicated the chapel on May 2, 1832.
In 1866 fire damaged much of the building, and in July 1867 the Seamen's Bethel reopened with the pulpit replaced and the seating turned to face the West. Today the building is considerably different than Herman Melville first visited in 1840 and described in "Moby Dick."
The influence of the Hollywood version of Moby Dick
resulted in a pulpit shaped like the bow of a ship. Visitors were so disappointed in the original ordinary pulpit, the New Bedford Port Society changed it to look like the movie version.
Pictured above is Nancy Hartzog, who gave us much history of the chapel. Her father, George Hartzog, was influential in the National Park Service and is featured in several episodes of Ken Burns current film.
The cenotaphs lining the walls of the chapel are visible memorials to men who lost their lives at sea.
"It needs scarecly to be told with what feelings, on the eve of a Nantucket voyage, I regard those marble tablets, and by the murky light of that darkened, doleful day read the fate of whalemen who had gone before me." . . .Herman Melville
A couple of pictures of New Bedford streets and buildings.
A few blocks away lies Fort Taber. The gates are locked, but I stuck the camera through a crack and got 1 photo.
Butler Flats Light Station, 1898, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.
For further information: Seamen's Bethel