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Washington Navy Yard

Washington, D.C.

  • traffic pointers Don't forget the video at the end!
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The Washington Navy Yard is the oldest shore facility in the U.S. Navy. Throughout our history it has played an important part in the defense of our country and, in recognition of that fact, the National Park Service has designated it as a National Historical Landmark.

Currently it is home to a variety of activities including the Regional Headquarters Naval District Washington, which functions as the coordinator for most of the Navy units in the Washington, Northern Virginia and Maryland areas. The Navy Yard is also home to the National Museum of the U.S. Navy. The video at the bottom of this article explores this museum.

The Washington Navy Yard is a fascinating place to visit. I have had the pleasure of visiting this facility twice, once while I was in the Air Force and again this last trip. Unfortunately, a few days after my last visit to the Yard it became famous nation-wide for the outrageous September 16, 2013 shooting rampage.

Washington Navy Yard History

Benjamin Stoddart, the first Secretary of the Navy, authorized the building of the Washington Navy Yard in 1799. The Navy Yard expanded rapidly as a shipbuilding facility until 1814 when British troops invaded Washington. The Yard's first commandant, Captain Thomas Tingey, was ordered to burn the base to prevent its supplies from falling into enemy hands. Rebuild after the War of 1812, the Yard continued to construct ships, and by the 1850s its primary function had evolved into ordnance production.

The engineering genius of Lieutenant John Dahlgren (twice commandant of the Yard) nurtured this development, and in 1886 the Yard became known as the Naval Gun Factory. Other notable technological achievements at the yard included: the first marine railway (1822), the first ship model basin (1898), the first successful shipboard catapult (1912), and a wind tunnel (1914).

Beginning in the 19th Century, the Washington Navy Yard served as the official gateway to Washington DC. Foreign diplomats and prominent visitors were received along the shoreline of the Anacostia River. Notably, the first Japanese delegation sent to the United States in 1860 arrived and docked at the Washington Navy Yard before heading off by carriage to meet with President James Buchanan. Another notable event occurred after President Lincoln's assignation when the body of John Wilkes Booth was brought to the Navy Yard on ironclad USS Montauk for identification and an autopsy.

Expanding to meet the needs of a growing fleet during World War I, the yard designed and manufactured the Navy's first 16" guns, as well as, the innovative U.S. Navy Railway Batteries that served in France. Mobilization for World War II resulted in further expansion of ordnance production. When industrial production ceased in 1961, the facility became a supply and administrative center. Once again designated as the Washington Navy Yard, this historic complex has become the ceremonial "Quarterdeck of the Navy."

National Museum of the United States Navy

The National Museum of the United States Navy opened in 1963 and is housed in the former, 600-foot-long, Breech Mechanism shop of the old Naval Gun Factory. The Museum displays art and artifacts from the Revolutionary War, Antarctic exploration, World War I and II, as well as showcasing submarine and deep-sea innovations.

You can enjoy peering through a submarine periscope, learning about underwater exploration and diving, as well as, maneuvering WWII-era artifacts. The Cold War Gallery, displays a large submarine section, including a view of living and working conditions, artifacts from Vietnam POWs, displays from the Korean War, and an interactive exhibit called the "Lion's Den."

Mon - Fri 9am to 5pm
Weekends and Holidays 10am -5pm

National Museum of the United States Navy
Washington Navy Yard
Washington, D.C.

A Tour of the National Museum of the US Navy