The bethel was immortalized in Herman Melville's epic whaling tome, Moby-Dick, as the "Whaleman's Chapel" in a scene where a fire-and-brimstone sermon is given from a bow-shaped pulpit.
The pulpit was a Melville invention, but a replica of the one described in the book was added to the chapel in 1961. Other changes were made when the structure was repaired after a fire in 1866. The names of New Bedford whalers killed, and later all area fishermen, are noted on the walls of the bethel. Also noted is the pew that Melville sat in when he visited in 1840.