Some of the most storied battleships in American naval history began life at Charlestown Navy Yard. Established in 1800 as one of the country’s first naval yards, Charlestown remained vital to US security until its decommissioning in 1974. From the wooden-hulled USS Constitution built in 1797 to the World War II steel destroyer USS Cassin Young, the yard gives visitors an all-hands-on-deck historical experience unparalleled in America.
“T” station: North Station (green & orange lines) • Water shuttle from Long Wharf; www.mbta.com
Naval Yard Visitor Center: Building Number 5; 617 242 5601; open times vary, call to check; www.nps.gov/bost
Bunker Hill Monument, USS Cassin Young, USS Constitution: open times vary, check website for details; www.nps.gov/bost
USS Constitution Museum: open Apr–Oct: 9am–6pm daily; Nov–Mar: 10am–5pm daily • Donation
First tested in action during the War of 1812, the USS Constitution is the world’s oldest warship still afloat. A tugboat helps her perform an annual turnaround cruise on July 4th.
Begin your stroll through the yard at the National Park Service-operated Visitor Center, where you can pick up literature about the site’s many attractions and check on tour schedules.
This 220-ft (67-m) gra-nite obelisk, near the yard has towered over Charlestown since 1842. It was built to commemorate the first major battle of the American Revolution (see Battle of Bunker Hill).
Never defeated, despite withstanding multiple kamikaze bomber-attacks in the Pacific, this World War II era destroyer could be considered USS Constitution’s 20th-century successor.
The oldest building in the yard, dating from 1805, housed the commandants of the First Naval District. With its sweeping harbor views and wraparound veranda, this elegant mansion was ideal for entertaining dignitaries from all over the world.
To facilitate hull repairs, Dry Dock #1 was opened in 1833. It was drained by massive steam-powered pumps. USS Constitution was the first ship to be given an overhaul here.
This quarter-mile- (0.5-km-) long building (1837) houses steam-powered machinery that produced rope rigging for the nation’s warships.
With activities to keep kids entertained, as well as enough nautical trivia and artifacts – from muskets to spoils of war – to satisfy a naval historian, this museum brings to life USS Constitution’s two centuries of service.
This octagonal brick building was designed in the Georgian-revival style popular in the northeast in the mid 19th century. The house served as an administration hub, where the yard’s clerical work was carried out.
The Navy Yard has constantly evolved to meet changing demands and developments. The marine railway was built in 1918 to haul submarines and other vessels out of the water for hull repairs.
Given her 25-inch- (63-cm-) thick hull at the waterline, it’s easy to imagine why USS Constitution earned her nickname “Old Ironsides.” Pitted against HMS Guerriere during the War of 1812, the ship engaged in a shoot-out that left Guerriere all but destroyed. Seeing British cannon balls “bouncing” off USS Constitution’s hull, a sailor allegedly exclaimed, “Huzzah! Her sides are made of iron.” The rest is history.