Logo   USS Constitution, "Old Ironsides"
The USS Constitution, still commissioned in the service of the US Navy, is now in drydock for repairs, but you can still visit it—for free.


USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) at dusk, Boston MA


USS Cassin Young, Boston MA
USS Cassin Young




The oak-hulled, three-masted 44-gun heavy frigate was built in Boston, given the name USS Constitution by President George Washington, and launched in 1797 as one of the six original capital ships of the young United States Navy.

Constitution fought Barbary pirates off the coast of North Africa (1801-1805), and defeated five British warships in the War of 1812.

In the notable battle with HMS Guerriere in August 1812, the Constitution's unusually thick and sturdy oak hull resisted the British ship's cannonballs so well—bouncing them off her sides—that she earned the nickname "Old Ironsides."

Constitution later saw continued service in the Mediterranean and along the coasts of Africa.

  Bow of USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), Boston MA
  Bow of USS Constitution

During the American Civil War, she was used as a training ship for United States Naval Academy midshipmen.

Constitution was retired from active service in 1881, but she still sailed, notably on a 90-city tour of the USA in 1931. She is the world's oldest commissioned warship afloat.

Docked in Boston Harbor at the Charlestown Navy Yard (map), she was in a deteriorated condition, but was restored for her 200th birthday in 1997, and she sailed out into Boston harbor under her own power then, and again in 2012.

In May 2015 she again moved into Dry Dock 1 at the Charlestown Navy Yard for repairs, including replacement of the 3400 copper sheets that protect her hull from wood-boring sea worms. Constitution had been the first ship to enter Dry Dock 1—in 1833. Repairs are expected to take three years and cost $12 to $15 million.

Constitution is open to visits during repairs, which are not carried out during visiting hours. Admission to the shipyard and to the ship is free of charge.

When you visit the USS Constitution, if you're 18 years of age or older, you must present a government identification document such as a driver's license or passport, and you will pass through a security check: metal detector and x-ray of bags.

You may visit the top deck of the vessel on your own. To visit belowdecks, you must take the free 30-minute guided tour.

In the historic granite drydock (1833) next to the USS Constitution is the USS Cassin Young (DD-793), a Fletcher-class destroyer built in 1943 by Bethlehem Steel Corporation. The Cassin Young, named for a US Navy captain awarded the Medal of Honor, saw much action in the Pacific during WWII, and was retired in 1960.

The nearby USS Constitution Museum, a separate entity, houses many artifacts dealing with the Constitution's history and its 40 battles at sea (all won), besides a "Life at Sea" exhibit, showing what shipboard life was like in 1812. Donations are suggested for the museum.

The Boston National Historical Park - Charlestown Navy yard also offers programs on the Navy Yard and the American Revolution in Building No. 5 (between the ship and the USS Constitution Museum).

Check the USS Constitution website for information on visiting hours.

The easiest way to reach the Charlestown Navy Yardand USS Constitution is by MBTA F-4 Inner Harbor Ferry from Long Wharf near the New England Aquarium. You can also take the MBTA Orange Line subway to the Community College station and walk to Bunker Hill or to the Charlestown Navy Yard.

USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides")
Boston National Historical Park
1 Constitution Road (Charlestown)(map)
Boston MA 02129

—by Tom Brosnahan

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USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), Boston MA

USS Constitution ("Old Ironsides"), Boston MA.


USS Constitution (Old Ironsides), Boston MA

USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) & Bunker Hill Monument, Boston MA

USS Constitution with the
Bunker Hill Monument in the background.

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