At the end of the 19th century, shipping was one of the main activities fueling the growing American economy and New York was a thriving port city. Partly thanks to its location and the shallowness of its waters, New York’s harbor would welcome more people and tons of cargo than any other American harbor. Ships carrying construction materials, spices and textiles were were docked in lower Manhattan, in an area that would later become the heart of the world’s financial industry.
It is here that the first ocean liners — transatlantic ships that would depart at scheduled time each week — were launched. Before that, ships would only leave a port when their cargo was full. And it is here that the Seamen’s Church Institute of New York and New Jersey (SCI), an organization founded in 1834 by Episcopal sailors to provide seamen with basic healthcare, education and pastoral services, founded the first floating church.
The Church of Our Savior, erected by the Young Men’s Church Missionary Society, was moored off Pike Street in lower Manhattan. It quickly become a key landmark in the city, but it was abandoned in 1866 because of material decay.