Reverend Joseph Eastburn Mariners’ Church and the Ship Model “Beulah”

On Sunday Oct 24, 1819 at 10:30 A.M. “Father” Joseph Eastburn waited to greet sailors in Philadelphia’s port. The place: Bickley’s Wharf…just north of Market Street facing the Delaware River at Jacob Dunton’s Sail Loft. A small flag, later to be called “The Bethel Flag” hung outside…inviting sailors to worship at the “Mariners’ Church”. Joseph Eastburn anxiously awaited. This day marked the first service of the Mariners’ Church…where Eastburn will go on to devote his life ministering to sailors.
By 1822, services at Dunton’s Sail Loft outgrew the space. The next place of worship was courtesy of the Second Presbyterian Church, at the time located on Cherry Street above Market Street. Eastburn’s ministry continued to grow. In 1824, Mariners’ Church moved into space on Water Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets, which they had built. In 1826, sailors returning from a treacherous trip from Canton, China on the masted ship “Benjamin Rush” immediately paraded to the Mariners’ Church where they presented a votive ship model of the “Beulah” to Reverend Eastburn. They made it on the high seas and offered it to the church as a “Thank You” for safely returning them to Philadelphia.
Finally, in 1858, the Mariners’ Church moved to its new permanent building at the S. E. corner of  Front and Delaware, (then Union) Streets where the iconic ship model “Beulah” hung by a chain from the ceiling directly over the lectern, where it remained until the 1950’s when the Mariners’ Church merged with the Third and Scot’s Presbyterian Church. Reasons for the merger were well founded: Mariners’ membership waned; the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation condemned the church building and neighboring structures for the proposed I-95 project, an Interstate U. S. highway; and if this wasn’t enough…an unexplained fire burned the church to the ground before demolition took place. Fortunately, prior to the fire, the votive ship model, “Beulah” had been taken down and stored…later to be restored by retired naval architect, William C. Wester, a Presbyterian Church Elder. 
Today the “Beulah” is displayed at the Presbyterian Historical Society, 425 Lombard Street, Philadelphia, Pa.     

Funds for the restoration were, in part, provided by the Friends of Old Pine Street, (Old Pine Conservancy). “Beulah’s” exhibit case was given in memory of Margaret Elizabeth Clayton by Mr. and Mrs. John M. Clayton, Jr.
Research by Ronn Shaffer; Layout and typing by Robert O. Eck; December 2, 2013