Tall Ship Providence to Arrive Soon in Alexandria

Providence is anticipated to open to the public late this summer

A reproduction of a historic tall ship will soon make waves when it arrives in Old Town Alexandria.

The tall ship named Providence is set to sail in on July 1.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge is scheduled to open just before midnight for Providence to come through, and the Alexandria Fire Department will greet the ship with a water arch. Welcome boats will also guide the ship to its new home, according to a press release.

The ship is a replica of a merchant ship called Katy from the 1770s, which was renamed Providence after becoming the fifth ship commissioned in the Continental Navy. Providence later went on to become one of the most renowned ships in the Revolutionary War, according to the release.

Providence is anticipated to open to the public late this summer. Visitors will be allowed to go aboard and learn about 18th-century life at sea, as well as the history of the original ship. There will also be weekly sails, tours, craft brew cruises, private tours and charters.

A permanent visitors' center is scheduled to open in 2020 at the south end of the marina. Tours will be incorporated into a larger interactive program, which will also include a multimedia presentation on "The Birth of the Navy," according to the Tall Ship Providence Foundation's website.

"We are delighted to bring Providence to Alexandria," Claire Sassin, executive director of the Tall Ship Providence Foundation, said in a written statement. "Providence will entertain, educate, and serve as an economic development vehicle for the City. We are looking forward to welcoming City residents and tourists alike aboard the ship."

The reproduction was built in 1976 for the American Bicentennial celebration, and was originally supposed to be part of a five-ship fleet. However, funds were short, and Providence and the HMS Rose were the only ships actually constructed, according to the ship's website.

Since its creation in the 1970s, Providence has changed hands several times and appeared in several movies, including two "Pirates of the Carribean" films.

In 2014, after three years of using it for charter sails in Rhode Island, the owner, charter-boat captain Thorpe Leeson, decided to sell it, but the ship was damaged in a winter storm in February 2015. Leeson then hired a master shipwright to prepare a restoration plan so possible buyers could see what it would look like. Restoration began immediately after the ship was purchased by the Tall Ship Providence Foundation in August 2017 and is almost complete.

The decision to purchase the vessel was made in 2015 by a group of business leaders, lead by Scott Shaw, and came as the result of a discussion about how to liven up Alexandria's waterfront.

"Our City's maritime history placed out community on the map, and our connection with the River sustains us today," Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said. "With the arrival of the Tall Ship Providence to our shoreline, we will have a living, breathing bridge between our past and the future."

For more information about the ship, its history, and the restoration process, visit the ship's website.

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