Past USS Constellation Restorations
For a ship that is over 150 years old, USS Constellation is now in good shape. This is true for two reasons: She was originally built with some incredible material - clear white oak (quercus alba) for hull planking and live oak (quercus virginiana) for frames. Her decks were yellow pine, masts and spars white pine or spruce. She also went through a massive structural restoration from 1996 to 1999.
When the ship came to Baltimore in 1955 she was in need of repair. Several years of neglect had taken their toll. From that time up and through the 1980's the ship's stewards never had the resources to properly restore and maintain her. As a result, she rotted from the top down - freshwater is the bane of wooden ships - and her keel began to hog (bend). In 1992, the navy condemned USS Constellation as an unsafe vessel and she was closed to the public. It took 4 more years to raise the funds necessary to bring her to drydock for repairs.
While in drydock, a portion of Constellation's frames were replaced with laminated white oak. Approximately 70% of her topside planking was replaced with a 4 layer laminate of douglass fir. She received a new laminated gun deck, new traditionally laid spar deck, as well as new main and fore masts. In July of 1999 Constellation returned to her berth on Pier 1, Constellation Dock, to a grand homecoming celebration.
Restoration has continued, mostly to Constellation's interior spaces, since 1999. Subsequent projects have included the restoration of the Captain's Cabin, the Sickbay, the Ship's Hold and Orlop Decks, and the latest project, the restoration of the Wardroom and Officers' Quarters. Much of the ship's armament has been recreated with the installation of 16 VIII-inch chambered shell guns on the gun deck and a 20-pounder Parrott rifle mounted on the spar deck.
Future projects will include the restoration of the ship's brig, the galley, the manger, and myriad other detail projects which help tell the story of what life was like on board.