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USS Constitution 1992-1996 Restoration

This section documents the 1992-1996 restoration in the Charlestown Navy Yard.

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September 1992

USS Constitution sits high and dry in the Charlestown Navy Yard, Boston National Historical Park, in Dry Dock #1 at the start of the 1992-1996, 4-year restoration.

Filling Dry Dock #1

Dry dock #1 is the second oldest in the United States. It has been enlarged several times since it first opened in 1833; USS Constitution was the first vessel to enter it on June 24, 1833. Today, it holds approximately 4.8 million gallons of water (which enters through the ports in the caisson door) and takes about 90 minutes to fill, but it can take over 14 hours to empty, as a vessel is slowly being lowered onto its keel blocks.

New lower masts

Constitution was fully down-rigged before entering the dry dock. Even the lower masts, which are stepped on the keelson, were removed and replaced. Each lower mast is a “made mast”; to create the massive diameter size of Constitution lower masts, each mast is four quadrants of laminated wood and held together with iron bands that are put on red hot and cooled and shrunk around the mast.

Diagonal Riders

The 1992-1996 restoration had the goal of restoring five different structural elements to Constitution that had originally been built into her, but had long been removed. “Diagonal riders”, massive timbers in the lower hold were recreated in laminated white oak. They helped disperse the weight and stress applied to the ship from the heavy guns on the upper decks. The riders also helped to prevent “hogging” of the keel, where the bow and stern droop through lack of support.

Bending on the Fore Topmast Staysail - 1997

When the restoration was completed and Constitution was refloated from the dry dock, she was re-rigged – which included six new sails manufactured from OceanusTM, a synthetic, polyester material.

July 21, 1997 – 200TH Anniversary Sail of USS Constitution

In celebration of the 200th anniversary of Constitution’s launch on October 21, 1797, the ship sailed under her own power off the coast of Marblehead, MA. This celebratory event, with six new sails, was the first time Constitution had sailed in 116 years.

Early Restoration History  |   1992 - 1996 Restoration  |   2007 - 2010 Restoration  |   Home