Newport, R.I. - The U.S. Naval War College (NWC) Museum removed the former USS Constellation anchor from Naval Station Newport Nov. 16 to begin a restoration project months in the making. The anchor rested outside the NWC Museum until a crane lifted the 11,000 pound exhibit on a flatbed truck for its trip to Mystic Seaport Museum Shipyard. The shipyard will perform the restoration work, which is expected to be finished in March 2022.
NWC Museum Director Ryan Meyer is leading the restoration project and explained what the anchor represents to the Navy.
“We have an early naval anchor in our collection that came from one of the most historic ships in the Navy,” said Meyer. "This is an important project because of the significance of the USS Constellation’s role in the history of the U.S. Navy and here in Newport as a training ship and flagship. As the last all-sail warship built for the Navy, the Constellation served in the African Squadron conducting patrols along the African Coast to suppress the Atlantic slave trade and helped protect union merchant shipping from confederate warships during the Civil War.”
After the Civil War, the Navy converted the ship to a training vessel, first for the Naval Academy and then moved it to Newport in 1894 for the same purpose until its first decommissioning in 1933. In 1940, the USS Constellation was recommissioned to be used as the relief flagship for the Commander in Chief of the Atlantic Squadron through World War II, eventually being decommissioned in 1955 and towed to Baltimore, Maryland, for restoration and display, which is where it resides today.
“The Navy removed the anchor from USS Constellation in 1904 and displayed the anchor first at Constellation Point and then in front of Quarters A on the base,” continued Meyer. “The anchor moved to its current location to support the NWC Museum when it first opened on May 26, 1978.”
Over the past 30 years, exposure to the elements caused the wooden stock to deteriorate. When the museum identified the damage, they began the process to return the anchor to its original design and measurements. The shipyard will use materials which, in most cases, will utilize traditional techniques appropriate for the time period.
The Mystic Seaport Museum Shipyard will implement the restoration project, which will entail the replacement of the wooden stock to include the metal bands holding the stock together with a proper-sized white oak stock and hand-forged metal bands and proper end caps on the stock. They will also paint the stock with 19th century period material, which includes tar pitch and linseed oil. These products will protect the anchor from future weather damage. In addition, the chain and anchor contained many rust areas and lamination, which will require repair and painting.
Walter Ansel, senior shipwright at Mystic Seaport Museum Shipyard, discussed their collaboration with the Naval War College.
“We are very excited to be collaborating with the Naval War College [Museum] on this project and honored that we can offer our expertise and facilities to preserve this important artifact,” said Ansel.
"Through this project, we will ensure that the story of this ship, this base and the U.S. Navy will be preserved for generations to come,” said Meyer.
NWC Museum is one of 10 Navy museums and operates under the Naval History and Heritage Command in cooperation with the U.S. Naval War College. The mission of the museum serves the public information objectives of the U.S. Navy and NWC’s educational objectives. The museum secondarily supports other Navy schools at Naval Station Newport through public education programs in naval history and programs for Navy education in its traditional uses of history as part of its curriculum.