Seamen's Bethel Chapel__& Mariner's Home


Joined February 2010

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Nikon D90-Nikkor 18-105m lens, F/13, 1/160 sec, ISO -200, fl30mm, max aper 4.1 no flash

Two of the oldest buildings in New Bedford—The Seaman’s Bethel and The Mariner’s Home
History of Building
Built by the New Bedford Port Society, it was completed on May 2, 1832. It is a contributing property to the New Bedford Historic District, a National Historic Landmark.
The Seamen’s Bethel was specifically constructed for the many sailors who called New Bedford their home port (mostly whalers), who considered it a matter of tradition that one visited the chapel before setting sail.1
The bethel was immortalized in Herman Melville’s epic whaling tome, Moby-Dick, as the “Whaleman’s Chapel” in a scene where a fire-and-brimstone sermon is given from a bow-shaped pulpit.
The pulpit was a Melville invention, but a replica of the one described in the book was added to the chapel in 1961. Other changes were made when the structure was repaired after a fire in 1866. The names of New Bedford whalers killed, and later all area fishermen, are noted on the walls of the bethel. Also noted is the pew that Melville sat in when he visited in 1840.
In 1851, Herman Melville published his famous tale of the white whale. In it he wrote:
“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.”
- Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville
From this point on, the Seamen’s Bethel came to be widely seen as a symbol of the whalers, and later as a symbol of their history.
In film
In 1956, John Huston shot a scene from the movie adaptation of Moby-Dick (with Gregory Peck & Orson Welles), in front of the real Seamen’s Bethel, but interior shots in the movie were not shot on-location. This revitalized tourism to the area.

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