The Tall Ship Providence Foundation has just announced the date for the much-anticipated arrival of the Tall Ship Providence in Alexandria. The ship, which is a reproduction of the original Providence, the first ship authorized to serve in the Continental Navy, will arrive in Old Town on the night of Monday, July 1. The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is scheduled to open just before midnight for Providence to come through and be greeted by a water arch by the Alexandria Fire Department. Providence will be accompanied by “welcome boats” that will guide her to her new home in Old Town.
The original Providence was a merchant ship called Katy and owned by John Brown of Rhode Island, one of the brothers Brown University was named for. When Rhode Island decided to establish its own small navy to protect its merchant ships from British Navy captains, Brown chartered the ship to the colony to become the flagship of the tiny, two-vessel Rhode Island navy.
Later, when it became evident to the Continental Congress that they needed a Continental Navy, they authorized the purchase of Katy and another ship to start the fleet. They didn’t know, however, that Katy was on a secret mission for General George Washington at the time, searching for gunpowder in Bermuda. After returning from its mission, Katy sailed to Philadelphia, was renamed Providence, and became the fifth ship commissioned in the Continental Navy.
Providence went on to serve in the Continental Navy for four years and was one of the most renowned ships in the Revolutionary War.
This Providence reproduction was built for the American Bicentennial celebration in 1976 and has appeared in a number of tall ship festivals and several movies, including two of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. In 2014, the owner decided to sell the ship and had it under contract when the ship was heavily damaged by a winter storm in February 2015. The owner wisely hired a master shipwright to prepare a plan for its restoration so that potential buyers could see what the ship could be versus its current condition. At the same time, a group of business leaders, lead by Scott Shaw, a partner with Alexandria Restaurant Partners, were talking about bringing a tall ship to enliven Alexandria’s waterfront and found Providence. The Tall Ship Providence Foundation was founded in August of 2017 to purchase the ship. The restoration of the ship started immediately and is near completion. Last week Providence departed Wiscasset, Maine, where the second half of her restoration took place, the first half occurred in Gloucester, Massachusetts, and will arrive in Old Town Alexandria late in the evening of July 1st.
“We are delighted to bring Providence to Alexandria. Providence will entertain, educate and serve as an economic development vehicle for the City,” says Clair Sassin, executive director of the Tall Ship Providence Foundation. “We are looking forward to welcoming City residents and tourists alike aboard the ship.”
"Our City's maritime history placed our community on the map, and our connection with the River sustains us today,” says Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “With the arrival of the Tall Ship Providence to our shoreline, we will have a living, breathing bridge between our past and the future. We look forward to welcoming her to Old Town."
Open to the Public
Once the ship opens to the public in late summer, visitors can step aboard and learn about 18th-century life on the sea, the history of the original ship, and meet a John Paul Jones re-enactor. Weekly sailing excursions, tours, craft brew cruises, private tours, and charters will take place on the ship, bolstering entertainment offerings on the waterfront. The ship will also have a temporary Visitor Center which will be located at 1 Cameron Street, Lower Level, while a permanent Visitor Center is being built (scheduled to open in 2020). The new Visitor Center will provide a dynamic and interactive experience for visitors to learn about the birth of the U.S. Navy.
For more information about the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, including additional history on Providence, the restoration process and visitor information, visit TallShipProvidence.org.