Boston is one of those cities where it is easy to perceive the importance that Americans give to their history and to see how it is protected, made known and sponsored. Not only historic buildings such as the Massachusetts State House, the Old South Meeting House or churches such as Park Street Church, King's Chapel and the Old North Church, along the famous Freedom Trail you can even admire a military ship launched in 1794 and still in use today: the USS Constitution.
This frigate docked in the Charleston Navy Yard is the oldest ship in the world still able to sail and belongs to the Navy. While generally anchored in Boston Harbor and a popular destination for tourists and locals alike who visit it daily, the ship has a crew of 55 sailors, a Navy captain, and is considered an active-duty US Navy vessel.
- The history of the USS Constitution
- Where is it and how to get there
- Timetable and ticket prices
- What to see on the ship and in the museum
- Movies and Curiosities
- Where to sleep near the USS Constitution
The history of the USS Constitution
The USS Constitution is an American icon and its story begins on 21 October 1797 in Boston. She was launched on that date but entered service on July 22, 1798: for two years, in fact, she sailed along the southeastern coasts of the United States to patrol the area against French ships.
In the early nineteenth century patrolled the Mediterranean and fought in war against the fleets of Tripoli, Tunisia and Algeria. In 1802 it also moored in Livorno. After a two-year period of repairs in Boston between 1807 and 1809, the USS Constitution returned to Europe, this time to patrol the North Atlantic.
Starting in 1812 the US ship began its battle alongside other prestigious frigates against Great Britain. Epic the escape from five British ships in July 1812 battle of only 20 minutes in August 1812 against HMS Guerriere and of December of the same year against the HMS Java: both British ships were heavily damaged by the Constitution which, however, remained almost unscathed from enemy attacks. From that year the Constitution was renamed Old Ironsides, that is old with iron sides.
When in 1830 it was suggested that it be dismantled because it was in very bad conditions of wear after the numerous battles, the American citizens strongly opposed it and the ship was refurbished to leave for the Mediterranean, the Pacific Ocean and the African coasts in the XNUMXs in search of slave ships. In 1844 he even made a world Tour which lasted about 30 months.
Since 1907 the Constitution has been a symbol of American military strength and has become a 'museum ship': millions of visitors have boarded the frigate which is now over two hundred years old and many continue to appreciate the interior of this 'iron lady'.
Between 1931 and 1934 he participated in a three-year tour in which he visited 90 ports, enjoying great success. Today it is located at Pier One del Charlestown Navy Yard but every year she is the protagonist of a cruise in the port of Boston complete with a drill and firing of cannons. The ship is then moored again, but on the opposite side to prevent wear from one side to the other.
In 1972 the museum dedicated to the USS Constitution was inaugurated which is located a short distance from the ship and illustrates the history and deeds of the 'iron-flanked lady' through permanent and temporary exhibitions.
Where is it and how to get there
The USS Constitution is docked at Charlestown Navy Yard in Boston. The indicative address is therefore 1 Constitution Road, Charlestown. The museum is a short distance away, in Building 22 of the Charlestown Navy Yard.
The two attractions are at the end of the Freedom Trail and getting to them is pretty easy.
With public transport you can take the MBTA Green Line or the MBTA Orange Line and get off at the nearest stop, North Station on Causeway Street. Take the Freedom Trail and in about 20 - 25 minutes on foot you will reach the ship and the museum.
If you have a rental car, please note that the area around the ship is not accessible to unauthorized persons. The advice is to enter the address of the Nautica Parking Garage (88 Constitution Road, MA 02129), park and walk from there. The car park is approximately 7 minutes walk from the ship and the museum.
However, the cost of parking is quite high so the advice is to rely on public transport, which is the best way to explore the city. To learn more, read our guide on how to get around Boston.
Timetable and ticket prices
La USS Constitution can be visited free of charge and without reservation. Being a military area, all adults are required to show an identity document and pass a security gate where bags and backpacks will also be checked.
The visit of the ship is possible according to the following schedule:
- in spring and summer every day except Monday from 10:00 to 18:00;
- in autumn and winter every day except Mondays and Tuesdays from 10:00 to 16:00.
The closing times may vary in the fall and spring to allow for the firing of a pistol when the American flag flying on the ship is lowered at sunset.
In addition to the weekly closing days, the ship cannot be visited on January 15th (Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday), Thanksgiving Day, Christmas and January 1st.
The museum is open every day:
- from 9:00 to 18:00 in spring and summer
- from 10:00 to 17:00 in autumn and winter.
It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. On 24 December it closes at 14pm.
The museum does not have a Admission but suggests a donation of $ 10 or $ 15 per adult, $ 5 or $ 10 per child, $ 25 to $ 45 for families.
What to see on the ship and in the museum
The visit is introduced by the crew who will explain technical details and tell the most salient historical episodes of which the USS Constitution was the protagonist. Among the information we remember that the wooden frigate has three masts, is 62 meters long and 13 wide. Visiting it you will be struck by the refinement of the workmanship and its sails, which allowed the ship to reach a speed of 13 knots (24 km per hour). You will then explore the cargo hold, with the dormitory and cannon firing point, the officers' room and other interiors.
If the ship is full of charm, too the museum dedicated to her is particularly interesting. It has two main exhibits and several minor exhibits. Here are some details on what you will be able to see:
- in the From Forest to Frigate section you will learn how and why the ship was built and all the stages of its manufacture;
- in All hands on Deck: A Sailor's Life in 1812 adults and children will be able to 'touch' what it meant to be a sailor at the beginning of the nineteenth century;
- in Old Ironsides in War and Peace you will discover all the historical details of the USS Constitution;
- in Old Ironsides War of 1812 Discovery Center, through various interactive activities, you will learn more about the war of 1812 while in Constitution vs HMS Java you can learn more about the events of the battle at sea between the two powerful enemy ships;
- in Making Old Ironsides New you will get details on the reconstructions and restorations that the 'iron-flanked lady' experienced.
Movies and Curiosities
- The charm of the ship and the fact that it has been rebuilt over the years exactly as it was conceived in the late eighteenth century made it the perfect model for digital images of the French frigate Acheron in the 2003 film Master and Commander: Challenge at the Edge of the Sea with Russel Crowe.
- Like any site or historical monument of great importance, the legends or stories that are told about it are innumerable and often far from the truth. The Secretary of the Navy John H. Dalton fell into the 'trap' who, in a speech in 1997, reported events related to the war of 1812 and the fame of the USS Constitution taken from the internet but in reality absolutely devoid of historical foundations.
Where to sleep near the USS Constitution
Given the widespread public transport system that unifies the city, it is not strictly necessary to look for a lodging near the USS Constitution. My advice is in fact to sift the neighborhoods that we have reported in our article on where to sleep in Boston, from which you can then easily move to visit any attraction you are interested in.
However, if in any case you particularly want to sleep near this historic ship, you can try to sift through the not many accommodations available in Charlestown.
Our tips for sleeping in Boston