Due to to the generosity of landholder and philanthropist Henry Rutgers, a place for Baptist worship has been standing on the corner of Oliver and Henry Streets since 1795. Henry Rutgers, born near New York City on October 7, 1745, was the descendant of Dutch immigrants who settled in New York City in 1636 and prospered as brewers. Rutgers graduated from Kings College in 1766, was a colonel during the American Revolution, and later became politically active. He gave lands and funds to his own Dutch Reformed Church, to Presbyterian and Baptist churches, and to schools for children of the poor. Henry Rutgers dies on February 17, 1830. Rutgers College in New Jersey—formerly Queens College—was renamed in his honor.
The first church on the Henry and Oliver Street site was called the Oliver Street Meeting House. Since the establishment of that first church, Baptists have continued to appreciate Henry Rutgers’ gift and have used the original site continuously for more than 210 years.
The early church began as a mission for European seamen who docked at the nearby East River, hence the present-day name, Mariners’ Temple. Rich in history and steeped in the Baptist religious tradition, Mariners’ stands on the oldest site for continuous Baptist worship in Manhattan. It is located on the Lower East Side at the tip of Chinatown, north of the South Ferry, and walking distance from City Hall. Today, the mission thrives as Mariners’ continues to be a sanctuary for those who labor and are tired and a pinnacle of hope for all seeking the kingdom of God.