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National Park Service would tear down historic, but hulking and unused warehouse to create new USS Constitution Museum and visitor center

Rendering of proposed new USS Constitution entrance

NPS rendering.

The National Park Service has proposed changes to the Charlestown Navy Yard that would include replacing the large, vacant Hoosac Stores warehouse next to the USS Constitution site with a new museum and visitor center.

The proposal also calls for demolition of a decaying World War II building at the end of the pier at which the Constitution is berthed, to be replaced by an open-air structure that would include sitting areas for visitors and space for outdoor events.

The Gateway to the Navy Yard will serve as both a port on the Freedom Trail and a portal to the rich history, contemporary relevance, and possible futures. This gateway will be an inviting space that allows people to create diverse experiences – opportunities for compelling programs, hands-on exhibitry, sweeping views of the harbor and city skyline, community spaces and moments for recharging and contemplation.

The proposed Gateway to the Navy Yard includes the construction of a new building along Constitution Road, which will integrate the NPS visitors center, USSCM and entry to the USS Constitution. Landscape enhancements will be noticeable with the restoration of historic buildings and restored artifacts like the massive cranes and dry dock to house USS Cassin Young and service USS Constitution. Throughout the Yard, a preservation standard will be applied to both NPS retained facilities, as well as several leased properties that will support the NPS in achieving its preservation and activation goals.

The proposal does not say what would be done with the two buildings that now house the USS Constitution Museum and the visitor center. The NPS proposal says visitors would see little to no impact on their trips due to the construction of the new building and pier structure, however.

The National Park Service is soliciting comments on the proposal through July 22.

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Comments

We as a society need to decide if we want to preserve our gritty industrial history, which is the very reason Boston exists, or replace it with shiny new museums.

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Voting closed 1159

The warehouse isn't doing much good if it stays vacant. Can the city and the Park Service find some way to creatively reuse it?

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Voting closed 709

That's a good idea.

At national parks, I'm always more interested in seeing the thing itself, rather than the visitor's center. I hope they can preserve the warehouse's character.

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Voting closed 1519

We just went up to the Constitution on Sunday, and both the ship itself and the museum were well worth the visit.

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Voting closed 1245

The National Historical Park there is just what you want.

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Voting closed 463

That mill museum, with old looms in the original building still being worked by docents, is pretty great.

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Voting closed 742

The Industrial Revolution in New England began in communities many miles from Boston: Waltham, Lowell, Brockton, Lawrence, Haverhill, Worcester, etc., as they exploited the hydropower potential of the Merrimack, Charles, and Blackstone river valleys.

Boston, as it has always been, served as the intermediary/exchange nexus for those gritty industrial dynamos, buying/selling/re-shipping the raw materials. Over time, Boston has become even MORE characterized by its FIRE (finance/insurance/real estate) ecosystem, as its relatively slender industrial base has been gobbled-up by those industries offering a higher ROI to speculators/developers.

But again, the point is: if you're seeking "gritty industrial history," head to the museums in Waltham, Lowell, and other parts of Boston's vast economic hinterland.

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Voting closed 1257

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Voting closed 580

Charlestown itself and the Navy Yard, both when it was an active Navy Yard (not just a tourist destination and expensive condos) and the years following, was indeed "gritty"

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Voting closed 746

Those with wealth did a lot of promotion of the city as a wealthy seat of civilization and knowledge, but the reality is that fortunes built on toil and industry rarely mentioned the toil and industry itself. For much of the colonial and post colonial history of the city, the city was comprised of warehouses, shipping and goods movement facilities along with manufacturing concerns. The homes of the wealthy may have lasted longer than the homes of the not-wealthy, who outnumbered them by orders of magnitude.

Boston has a truly gritty industrial history if you bother to look at where all that money came from.

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Voting closed 1300

When the Brahmins used to escape the heat, smells, filth and overall grittiness of Beacon Hill to summer in such destinations as Brookline and Milton.

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Voting closed 1565

What???

I guess if you just look at the places were the old old gorgeous housing are but the area very much had a very industrial past. Cambridge, Chelsea, Somerville, Charlestown... heck the entire Navy Yard was, um a Navy Yard with everything that goes with that and this was just North of the city center, I do not know enough about points south but I suspect they did as well. Then just one more step out you have the shoe city, the watch city.

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Voting closed 1044

Things change! It would do Boston some good to remind the city that things don't need to look the same way tomorrow as they did 100 years ago.

The empty warehouse wasn't there when Boston was founded. It replaced something else. In 100 years something will replace the new museum assuming it isn't under water.

The whole idea of cities is that they are in constant flux to represent the current needs and desires of the current residents, not the ones who are long gone.

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Voting closed 945

Not everything needs to look the same.

But this is a National Historical Park, and a building on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Voting closed 460

I think having it on the registry will make life complicated.

I am on the Historical Commission of my city in Chelsea and we have several criteria to look. One of those is, how important is this building? Just because something is old does not make it worth keeping. Does it represent a style that no longer exists? Did something very historic happen there? Was it in novels, books ? What does it do for the character of the area?

Honestly if it was not for the presence of it on the registry this would be an easy vote for me I think if it was in Chelsea... BUT it is on the registry , why? Someone put it on there for a reason, I would need to know what that reason was.

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Voting closed 724

The Museum and current Visitors' Center contain many exhibits dedicated to ship building.

The second building slated for demolition was designed to be a post WWII TEMPORARY building. It has no significance of any kind except to currently eat up maintenance $$.

The USS Cassin Young and the USS Constitution are shiny only where they are polished by crews (volunteers on the Cassin Young and US Navy active duty personnel on the Constitution).

Check it out for yourself.

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Voting closed 934

(And I know, Wikipedia) demolishing the Hoosac Stores warehouse might be problematic since it's apparently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Not an insurmountable barrier, but it requires quite a few more procedural approvals.

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Voting closed 859

does not give a building any protections. It's not anything like being a listed Boston Landmark.

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Voting closed 1425

In particular, and quite relevant here, it puts a roadblock in the way of a federal agency tearing the building down. It doesn't prohibit demolition, but it will at the least cause delay as public comment is taken.

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Voting closed 1328

Nothing like putting tourists into a government sponsored epileptic seizure situation to make one's day more exciting.

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Voting closed 823

Why isn’t the ship itself enough of a museum?

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Voting closed 1042

Then again, the Celtics resisted dancers until the end. Red was told that the dancers were entertainment. His response was "The Basketball Game Is The Entertainment".

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Voting closed 982

Red also once said that the rack of balls sitting at halfcourt was the only halftime entertainment they'd bother to provide

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Voting closed 486

is when you hit the restroom and pick up a couple of more cold ones for the second half.

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Voting closed 1174

Smoke about four cigarettes in the concourses so there was a haze over the court in the second half

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Voting closed 1000

The ship does not have room for exhibits. Take a look at the existing museum for an idea of what it contains and the programs it offers. https://ussconstitutionmuseum.org/

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Voting closed 1458

is an active duty commissioned warship and is not registered and primarily used as a museum. Its crew members are active duty US military service men and women. They wear period uniforms, and they learn how to care for a wooden warship built and active in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The Constitution serves as a living history site, allows visitors on board under officers and crew supervision, and sometimes allows on board visitors for turn arounds in the Harbor. Check the Navy Yard website for lottery-based tickets to board for the Harbor ventures. At a minimum, she turns around every six months in order to even wear and tear at dockside.

The Museum offers a wider and deeper look at the wide varieties of activities and histories of the ships built here, the people who built and served on them, and the issues and challenges of the times.

https://www.nps.gov/bost/learn/historyculture/ussconst.htm

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Voting closed 1161

Me will never forgive BU for tearing down the old armory.

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Voting closed 1240

Vacant, falling down and an eyesore. There’s a lot of history worth preserving in Boston, but this is not it.

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Voting closed 1083

I volunteered mainly on the Harbor Islands, but I also oriented to the Navy Yard and have spent time in the Museum, on the Constitution and in and around the visitors' center.

I've not been in either building planned for demo, but I know that both are unusable as is and drain NPS monies for maintenance and defense against further deterioration. The Museum director and staff are top notch, as are the NPS rangers and administrators. They are not spendthrifts, and they are frugal budgeters.

In this case, I think demolishing the two structures and placing environmentally sound structures to serve historic artifacts preservation and display, public education, civic participation and tourism are prudent and will strengthen the Navy Yard.

For those of you who haven't yet visited, please make time to do so. It's a fascinating place, and the multiple histories of those who worked on and around it and who served on Navy Yard built ships are important to know and appreciate.

If you're so inclined, check out the NPS/BNHP website and check out the Get Involved page for opportunities.

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Voting closed 516

Your comment mentions "demolishing the two structures", but Adam's post here mentions only this one warehouse.

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Voting closed 457

It's the white wooden building close to the ferry dock and next to where the Constitution is berthed. The last time I was out that way, the NPS Park Police were using it, but it may now be vacant as it has a world of maintenance needs. On the NPS proposal, it's listed and shown on the schematics as building 109.

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Voting closed 1128

The proposal does not say what would be done with the two buildings that now house the USS Constitution Museum and the visitor center.

My guess is that the Museum, already overcrowded, might use its current building as a preservation lab and storage.

The current visitors' center also houses NPS and US Navy classrooms and sleeping quarters. It might remain largely as is with the museum expanding its current exhibit areas.

However, the best way to learn of these buildings' potential future uses is to contact Michael Creasey, the park superintendent. I think his office is in the NPS offices across from the Old Statehouse: Media Queries and Superintendent's Office: 617-242-5644

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Voting closed 420

Yes, a better visitor center is needed, but I wonder if it would be more durable if it was floating?

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Voting closed 1060

I'm sorry but 'old' does not mean 'historic.'

We've just hit San Francisco's level of crazy and they set a very high bar ... with the declaration of an historic laundromat.

Tear it down.

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Voting closed 1574

Back in 2018 the Park Service announced a plan to rehabilitate the Hoosac Stores building for reuse as a new Visitor Center and Constitution Museum. With this current proposal, it sounds like they've determined that the Hoosac Stores structure is too deteriorated to be rehabbed. If you look at it, you can tell that it's in pretty bad shape. Yes, it would be nice if it could be restored as an example of Boston's "gritty" past, but maybe it's too far gone for that to happen.

The current Visitor Center building, Building 5, is occupied partly by the National Park and partly by the Navy. I believe it actually serves as a barracks for some of the Navy personnel. This creates a significant security issue, and is one reason why the Park Service wants to move the Visitor Center out of that building.

Yes, several years ago the Visitor Center was in the building that also housed "The Whites of Their Eyes". That building stood on land owned by Massport, which wanted the land back and essentially evicted the Park Service. Plans for the current Visitor Center were created before 9/11; but the Visitor Center didn't open until after 9/11. With the Navy barracks upstairs, the security checks had to be retrofitted into the existing plans, and the retrofit was a bit awkward.

Moving the Visitor Center out of Building 5 means that the public won't have to go through the security check just to go into the Visitor Center (or to use the restrooms). That would be a big plus in itself. A security check will still be needed before you go on board the ship, but that would now be after you went through the Visitor Center.

With the Visitor Center moved elsewhere, I presume that Building 5 would continue to be used by the Navy, and possibly also by park administrative personnel. But its public use would be ended, eliminating the need to have security checks just for that building.

The USS Constitution Museum wants to expand, and this proposal creates an opportunity. I'm sure that their current building will be repurposed for something like administrative use or artifact storage, or maybe as an annex to the adjacent carpentry shop.

Looking back in my files, I find an article that appeared in the Boston Globe on 10/6/2018, announcing that the Park Service had received a $3 million grant "to draw up plans to transform the [Hoosac Stores] warehouse into the new home of the USS Constitution Museum and a visitor center run by the National Park Service." (No, I can't find anything on UHub at that time.) Today's announcement is presumably the result of that $3 million planning grant.

A website about the project was created back then, . The website is still active today, but appears not to have been updated since 2019. It has a link which used to allow you to download the "Final Draft Visitor Experience Plan", but that link is no longer working.

Building 109 is the gray and white wooden building at the end of the pier, beyond USS Constitution's berth. (No, it's not near the ferry dock; it's near a dock where harbor cruise boats used to -- and may still -- drop off passengers.) It sounds like they've determined that, like the Hoosac Stores, it is too far deteriorated to be saved. It was originally built as a pilot house; from its penthouse a waterfront manager directed ships' movements around the Yard.

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Voting closed 499

The site that Adam links to above, , contains more information about the planning process and history. Follow the links from there to "Plan Process" and "Document List". There is also a public comment period, which closes on July 21. A link to that comment process is also available at the main link above.

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And just as many that have been left to rot and fall in on themselves. The massive granite buildings that have been repurposed are amazing. Such a cool spot to live but also a nightmare to get in and out of due to only one way in. So much history in that place.

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Voting closed 490

This was originally proposed 3+ years ago. Glad to see some progress. Originally the plan was to move the museum out of it's current building, and turn the old museum space into conference room place.

I live next door and often see visitors lost as to how to get to the Constitution & museum. This plan should help.

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Voting closed 1211