When it was first completed in 1856, the Veteran’s Memorial Hall or chapel did not have a tower. The original plan called for a tower but the Trustees of Sailors’ Snug Harbor did not approve it. In 1883, Snug Harbor’s carpenter, Richard Smyth constructed the tower that exists today. It is unknown as to whether Smyth used the original blueprints or constructed it himself.
The Trustees of Sailors’ Snug Harbor rode the wave of religious revivalism in the nineteenth century and mandated that all sailors attend religious services. The religious services were delivered in the Presbyterian and Episcopalian traditions. After the VMH officially opened in 1856, Rev. Phillips dramatically addressed the group of sailors and stated:
You are here, however, not to spend your time in idleness, in the mere animal indulgence of eating, and drinking, and sleeping; but you are here to refit. Your voyage has not yet terminated; the most important part of it is yet before you; there are quicksands, concealed rocks, whirlpools, and yawning gulphs. There may be a darker severer and more terrific storm, and a more awful warring of the elements still in reserve for you, than any through which yu have ever passed—you may yet be hopelessly wrecked, and left to sink into the deep and unfathomable abyss. Have you prepared your bark for this last part of your voyage, and are you sure all is right?