A return to glory

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The latest restoration of USS Constitution is undoing historically incorrect changes, bringing the ship ever closer to its 1812 splendor.

The only living veteran of the War of 1812” -- as USS Constitution Commander William Bullard described the old warship when he turned over his post this summer -- is having a makeover. Actually, “Old Ironsides” has gone through many looks since its launch 212 years ago. Some, such as the two-story barnlike structure built on its upper deck in 1882 and used for offices, were far removed from the iconic appearance attached to the ship today.

Restoration efforts beginning in the late 1920s have helped Constitution regain its look and dignity. In the mid-1990s, work restored the ship’s structural integrity, enabling it to sail under its own power for the first time in 116 years. The current three-year rehabilitation, which ends next year, will have similarly dramatic results. “When we’re done, Constitution will look as close to her 1812 configuration as it has since 1927,” says Richard Whelan, director of the Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston, which oversees the ship’s maintenance.

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