Step back in time and learn what it was like to be a cook or sailor in the Continental Navy.
The Sen. John Warner Maritime Heritage Center, the new permanent home of the Tall Ship Providence on Alexandria’s waterfront, is now open for interactive dockside tours where you learn the history of the American Revolution and the Continental Navy.
“The center was built to serve as a floating visitor attraction to educate our guests on the role of the Continental Navy during the American Revolution,” said Clair Sassin, president and CEO of the Tall Ship Foundation, at the grand opening. “And a byproduct of serving as a visitor attraction is the economic benefit for the city and the region. We are excited to be the reason people visit Alexandria and the DMV.”
The Tall Ship Providence is a replica of an 18th century ship that was the first ship authorized by the Continental Congress, and Capt. John Paul Jones’ first American command.
Visitors “go back in time to the 1700s” during the immersive tours, says Kathy Seifert, vice president of development and marketing for the Tall Ship Providence Foundation. Tours take about one hour.
You are assigned a role on the ship, perhaps as its cook, and learn about what daily life would have been like. You’re then greeted by a reenactor playing the role of Capt. John Paul Jones, who tells stories about the Providence’s history and shows you the captain’s cabin, the deck, and the hull. The tour concludes with a 12-minute educational film about Jones and the Continental Navy.
Seifert says that this project is a “long time in the making.” The foundation has been working to restore the ship and create the center since 2017.
“This is a celebration of maritime heritage in our city,” she says.
The tours are available for individuals, as well as large groups on field trips. The foundation is working on a program that aims to bring every fourth grader in Virginia to visit the center, funded by a grant from HII.
“We want every fourth grader to go through this building and get educated on their heritage, the Continental Navy, and what America did,” Seifert says.
Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that this project is an important element in Alexandria’s long-term plan to rejuvenate the waterfront.
“The one component of that planning effort that everyone could agree with was that history had to be a part of our waterfront,” Wilson said. “And one of the key components of that was that we wanted a ship here.”
The center was named after Sen. John Warner, who lived in Alexandria. Throughout his life he served in the Navy and the Marine Corps, held the titles of Under Secretary and Secretary of the Navy, and was a senator for five terms before his death in May 2021
In addition to the dockside tours, the tall ship hosts sunset sails on Saturdays and Sundays, and specialty sails on Fridays, which feature tastings of wine, beer, or spirits from a rotation of local breweries, wineries, and distilleries.
Dockside tours offered Wednesdays–Sundays, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., $17–$24; Sunset or specialty sails Fridays–Sundays, 6 p.m., $39–$59; 1A Prince St., Alexandria, tallshipprovidence.org
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