Seamen’s Church Institute was formed in 1919 to “provide work for the moral and mental improvement exclusively of all of those who are employed upon or in connection with the sea in any part of the world or upon the inland waters of the United States, including men in the service of the United States…”.
In 1930, the daughters of RI Senator and Mrs. George Wetmore funded the construction of a prominent brick, Georgian-styled building in honor of their parents. This building was designed by Beaux-Arts trained architect Frederick Rhinelander King. In 1983, Seamen’s was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This landmark building is the only original structure remaining on Market Square and is one of the few buildings on the Newport waterfront still being used for its original purposes.
Almost 100 years after its founding, the organization continues to offer services and support to those working on the waterfront, to visiting and local mariners, and to those in need in the community.
Ever adapting to changes in a developing waterfront, SCI’s mission today is “to preserve and enhance the maritime culture of Newport and Narragansett Bay by providing education, hospitality and a safe haven for those who work, live and play on or by the sea.”
The building is open 365 days a year from 7am to 4pm and serves approximately 50,000 people annually.
“Historically and traditionally….a safe refuge for those of the sea…in the mid-winter when the chill winds come and most of the boats are gone from the harbor, when you can park your car outside the front door…Seamen’s Institute finds itself playing a somewhat different role in the lives of people – a haven for just a soul in need. The priority given to seafarers does not exclude others from safe haven… What we have here is to be used. Those who hurt are drawn to this place. When life seems to be falling apart, we offer a place to end the downward spiral…a place where one can rest, feel safe – put a life back together. All that is required is that the intent be honest. Sometimes one must simply get beyond the reach of harmful things before healing can begin. The scene of many quiet miracles, we believe strongly that a quiet, safe unassuming haven is the best cure for a wounded spirit – that is why we don’t make a lot of noise about it”
Father ‘Mike’ Hambly, Superintendent 1982-1992