(KXAN) - The Washington Navy Yard is the oldest shore-based facility under the command of the U.S. Navy, according to its website.
It is the home to the U.S. Chief of Naval Operations and sits on a tract of land in the nation's capital that was purchased in 1798. Additional tracts were purchased three years later.
Some of the history, from the website:
- The first years saw the Washington Navy Yard become the Navy's largest shipbuilding and shipfitting facility, with twenty-two vessels constructed there, ranging from small 70-foot gunboats to the 246-foot steam frigate Minnesota. USS Constitution came to the yard in 1812 to refit and prepare for combat action.
- During the War of 1812, the Washington Navy Yard was important not only as a support facility, but was a vital strategic link in the defense of the capital city. As the British marched into Washington, holding the yard became impossible. Commodore Tingey, seeing the smoke from the burning Capitol, ordered the yard burned to prevent its capture by the enemy. Tingey's own quarters (now Quarters A) and the Latrobe gate were spared from the flames.
- Following the War of 1812, the Washington Navy Yard never regained its prominence as a shipbuilding activity. The waters of the Anacostia River were too shallow to accommodate larger vessels, and the yard was deemed too inaccessible to the open sea. Thus came a shift to what was to be the character of the yard for more than a century: ordnance and technology. The yard boasted one of the earliest steam engines in the United States which was used to manufacture anchors, chain, and steam engines for vessels of war.
- The Civil War again saw the yard become an integral part of the defense of Washington. Commandant Franklin Buchanan resigned his commission and went to Virginia to serve in the Confederate States Navy, leaving the yard to Commander John Dahlgren. President Abraham Lincoln, who held Dahlgren in the highest esteem, was a frequent visitor. The famous ironclad Monitor was repaired at the yard after her historic battle with CSS Virginia. The Lincoln assassination conspirators were brought to the yard following their capture. The body of John Wilkes Booth was examined and identified on the monitor Saugus, moored at the yard.
- Following the Civil War, the yard continued to be the scene of technological advances. In 1886, the yard was designated the manufacturing center for all ordnance in the Navy. Ordnance production continued as the yard manufactured armament for the Great White Fleet and the World War I Navy. The 14-inch naval railway guns used in France during World War I were manufactured at the yard.
- By World War II, the yard was the largest naval ordnance plant in the world. The weapons designed and built there were used in every war in which the United States fought until the 1960s. At its peak, the yard consisted of 188 buildings on 126 acres of land and employed nearly 25,000 people. Small components for optical systems, and enormous 16-inch battleship guns were all manufactured here. In December 1945 the Navy Yard was renamed the U.S. Naval Gun Factory. Ordnance work continued for some years after World War II until finally phased out in 1961. Three years later, on July 1, 1964, the activity was redesignated the Washington Navy Yard. The deserted factory buildings began to be converted to office use.
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