USS Constitution celebrates reopening with first underway since 2019

BOSTON — The USS Constitution is back on open water and back open for business. She made a triumphant return out into Boston Harbor for the first time since October 2019.

“We are ready like everyone else to try to get back to normalcy, and this is our way to show the people of Boston that we’re back and we’re opening our gates and welcome back to Old Ironsides,” said Commander John Benda.

The famed 224-year-old warship is under the command of the Dedham native. Benda was promoted just weeks before the pandemic hit. So, this was his first underway as commander.

>>>PREVIOUS: Dedham native gets ‘dream’ command aboard USS Constitution

“It’s a real honor to be the one in charge to take America’s ship of state through Boston Harbor for the first time in the 2021 year,” he said.

During Friday’s celebration, the ship was escorted by a tugboat and didn’t raise its sails, but sailors did perform a 21-gun salute off Castle Island.

The USS Constitution also fired an additional 17-gun salute as she passed the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Boston, the former site of the Edmund Hartt’s Shipyard where the USS Constitution was built and launched on Oct. 21, 1797.

The USS Constitution is the world’s oldest commissioned warship afloat. She got the nickname ‘Old Ironsides’ during the War of 1812 when British cannonballs were seen bouncing off the ship’s hull.

The ship shut down for public tours in March 2020, but the crew spent the year conducting virtual tours. Benda said they had more than 5 million virtual visitors. But he had this message to the public.

“Particularly talking to you City of Boston and Bostonians, you’ve probably been here your whole life and maybe never come on board the ship. Let’s change that this summer and come out and visit America’s ship of state,” he said.

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Free tours are being held every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. The USS Constitution Museum ranks #5 in USA Today’s 2021 10 Best Readers’ Choice travel awards in the category of “Best History Museum.”

In a highly competitive category of top museums from around the United States, online votes determined the winners from a group of 20 initial nominees. The museum was the sole nominee and winner in the category from New England.

The full list of the 10 Best Readers’ Choice Award-winners for Best History Museum is as follows:

  1. National Infantry Museum & Soldier Center (Columbus, Ga.)
  2. National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (Cincinnati, Ohio)
  3. National Museum of the Marine Corps (Triangle, Va.)
  4. The Mob Museum (Las Vegas, Nev.)
  5. USS Constitution Museum (Boston, Mass.)
  6. Museum of History & Industry (Seattle, Wash.)
  7. Independence Seaport Museum (Philadelphia, Pa.)
  8. National WWII Museum (New Orleans, La.)
  9. Museum of Native American History (Bentonville, Ariz.)
  10. The Henry Ford (Dearborn, Mich.)

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