I know I’ve said it so many times before but one of the reasons I love Boston so much is because I love being a tourist in my own hometown. No matter how long I’ve lived here, I always find new things to explore and appreciate.
A few weekends back the weather was beautiful and we were wondering what to do for the day when the Constitution popped into my head. As you know, John is a huge fan of naval and maritime history so I almost couldn’t believe we had never been there before. Plus it’s literally 3 miles from our house.
The USS Constitution is located in the Boston National Historical Park at Charlestown Navy Yard, one of the 15 National Park Service parks in Massachusetts. The Navy Yard was established in 1800; the workforce served the fleet for nearly 175 years and built more than 200 warships there (maintaining and repairing thousands more). It was closed in 1974 and became part of the Boston National Historical Park.
Incidentally the Constitution is also the last stop on The Freedom Trail, a 2.5 mile path through Boston that includes 16 historically significant sites throughout the city including Boston Common, Site of the Boston Massacre, Old North Church, Paul Revere’s House, etc.
Launched in 1797, the Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat. The ship was retired from active service in 1881 and was designated as a museum ship in 1907.
The Constitution is a wood-hulled, three-masted, 44 gun, heavy frigate. During active service, the Constitution’s battery of guns consisted of thirty 24-pound cannons, 15 on each side of the gun deck, twenty-two 32-pound carronade cannons, 11 per side of the spar deck, and four chase guns positioned at the stern and bow.
Most notable, of course, is the name and nickname of the ship. It was named by President George Washington after the Constitution of the United States of America. However, the nickname, Old Ironsides, came during the War of 1812 when the Constitution defeated the British frigate Guerrière – witnesses claimed that British fire merely bounced off the Constitution’s sides as if the ship were made of iron rather than wood.
Inside the Constitution are three decks: the orlop deck (the lowest deck, which is not included on the tour), the berth deck (seen below, which includes the captain’s quarters and sleeping area), and the gun deck (also seen below with the cannons facing outward).
Adjacent to the ship is the USS Constitution Museum, full of interactive exhibits, artwork, historical artifacts, and displays dedicated to preserving the history and memory of the Constitution.
Where the ship tour focused on the active service of the Constitution as well as life on the ship, the museum educates visitors about the historical significance of the ship on American and naval history. Both activities complement each other wonderfully; you’ve definitely got to do both!
After visiting the Constitution we were walking through Charlestown and I happened to catch this view of the Bunker Hill Monument (the second to last stop on the Freedom Trail, right before the Constitution). We didn’t visit the Monument (it’s definitely next on our list!) but the view was so quintessentially Boston, I had to post it here: beautiful federal-style rowhouses, narrow, gaslit streets, and brick sidewalks. Gorgeous, right? I love this city!