In the 19th century, sailors prayed on floating churches in the East River

October 10, 2017

Chapel of the Holy Comforter (1846-1856), courtesy of NYCago

While New York City’s waterways have featured both floating pools and floating parks, they also once held floating churches. The Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey (SCI) first built a floating house of worship in 1844, designed for sailors. According to Untapped Cities, the group’s first big project included building the Church of Our Savior, which floated in the East River off of Pike Street in downtown Manhattan.

floating church, nyc history, seamen's church institute
Interior of the floating Church of our Savior, photo via SCI

Founded in 1834 by a group of Episcopalian sailors and still in operation today, the SCI provides mariners with education, pastoral care and legal advocacy. Today, the group maintains a budget over $6 million and is headquartered in Newark, New Jersey.

floating church, nyc history, seamen's church instituteSeaman’s floating church at the foot of Pike Street, photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

SCI’s first Church of Our Savior quickly decayed, making it unusable. In 1846, a second floating church was built, known as the Church of the Holy Comforter. This second church was found at the foot of Dey Street on the West Side, floating on the Hudson River. SCI’s third church was moored in 1869 again at the foot of Pike Street on the East River, where it remained for 41 years.

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Photo courtesy of SCI

The second Church of Our Savior was used until 1910. After that, it was towed to Mariners’ Harbor in Staten Island to become the All Saints’ Episcopal Mission Chapel.

[Via Untapped Cities]


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