Motel Ironsides Leaves Portsmouth
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Written by SeacoastNH Early Images


THE USS CONSTITUTION

Yes, this is "Old Ironsides" as it looked when it left Portsmouth Harbor in 1897 and returned to Charleston, MA. Hey, maybe we didn’t make it look good, but we kept the Old Gal alive for another couple of decades while she was here. Click to see colorized postcards.

 

 


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Although "Old Ironsides" spent nearly 20 years in Portsmouth Harbor, this region has been associated with the ebb of the ship's career since here she was "cabbed over" by Navy order and turned into a receiving ship barracks.

We picked up these two postcards on eBay the other day. They show Old Ironsides on display before her restoration. Laid up in Portsmouth, the ship was used as a barracks from 1882 to 1897, but fared little better when towed to Charlestown, Mass where the ship had been originally built in 1797. Remember that these are "colorized" versions of black and white photos and do not necessarily represent the ship’s actual paint colors at the time.

Following a big centennial celebration in Boston, Ironsides languished in Charlestown in this condition from 1897 to 1907 when the "ugly barn" was removed from her main deck. She also received new rigging and replica guns at a cost of $97,800.01. It wasn't until 1927 that the true restoration began with public funds. Even while the historic ship lay in Charlestown, the Navy considered using her as a target ship and offered only token funds for restoration. But the removal of the barracks, public financing and interest by Congress and Boston restorers finally did the trick. Early in the 1930s Ironsides was towed around the USA, starting with a return visit to Portsmouth, NH. --- JDR

Old Ironsides around 1897 / SeacoastNH.com

USS Constitution in Charleston Harbor

Ironsides Workers / SeacoastNH.com

Motel Ironsides DETAIL from Postcard / SeacoastNH.com