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New maritime center at Waterfront Park opens this Saturday

The Tall Ship Providence sailed up the Potomac River to its new permanent home at Waterfront Park in Alexandria on Tuesday, and the floating Senator John Warner Maritime Heritage Center will start offering interactive tours for the public starting this Saturday, June 17.

The effort to build the maritime center goes back to 2018, and construction started last year. In April, the center was floated up from Baltimore and final touches have been added to the two cottages housing an education center where visitors will get an immersive lesson about sailing during the Revolutionary War.

After walking through a security gate and gangway, visitors will get handed small character cards before their dockside tour of the ship.

“The year is 1776, and you will either be a cook, a carpenter, able seaman, a landsman, or a purser,” said Tall Ship Providence Foundation President and CEO Clair Sassin. “They’ll get a bit of history from the Education Center, where they’ll be informed on the ship, their new home for the next few months. And that’s when you leave and you get on Providence to meet Captain John Paul Jones and explore the ship.”

The hour-long tours run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and cost $24 for adults, $20 for military veterans and $17 for children ages 5 to 17. The ship will also continue sailing tours on weekends.

“The whole center can hold up to 120 people, and can also be rented out for events,” Sassin said.

The Providence, built in 1976, is a replica of the first naval warship commissioned by the Continental Congress in 1775. It was captained by famed Captain John Paul Jones, who famously said, “I have not yet begun to fight,” in response to a call to surrender in 1779.

The original Providence was destroyed to keep it from falling into the hands of the British in 1779, but throughout its tenure broke through a British naval blockade at Newport, captured 16 enemy ships and disrupted the fishing industry in Nova Scotia, which was a British food source.

A grand opening for the center with city leaders, donors and other stakeholders will be held on Thursday, June 22, from 4 to 6 p.m.

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