Washington Navy Yard has long history; played role in War of 1812, Lincoln's assassination

WASHINGTON - From its earliest years as a shipbuilding facility, the Navy Yard, scene of the mass deadly shooting in Washington (http://bit.ly/1bmJTUB) on Monday has a rich history.

PHOTO GALLERY - Shooting at the Washington Navy Yard (http://bit.ly/dcnavyyard)

About a mile from the U.S. Capitol, the Washington Navy Yard sits on land set aside by George Washington for use by the federal government along the Anacostia River.

The 65-acre facility, bordered by brick walls, is in an urban area that in recent years has undergone a renewal fueled in large part by the construction of the baseball stadium that is home of the Washington Nationals, just a few blocks away. On Monday, the ballpark served as a gathering site for workers evacuated from the site.

Authorized in 1799, the Navy Yard became the Navy's largest shipbuilding and shiplifting facility, according to the Naval District Washington's web site. It later served as a weapons plant.

The Navy Yard was considered an important defense for the city during the War of 1812. But when the British marched into Washington, commanders decided the yard could not be defended and ordered it burned to prevent its capture by the enemy.

During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln was a frequent visitor to the Navy Yard, which played an important role in the defense of the nation's capital.

When Lincoln was assassinated, the eight conspirators accused of plotting his death were brought to the yard and held on vessels anchored on the Anacostia River before their trials. The body of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth was examined and identified on a ship moored at the yard.

Following the Civil War, the Navy Yard was designated the manufacturing center for all ordnance for the Navy and the scene of many scientific developments.

The gears for the Panama Canal locks were cast at the yard. Navy Yard technicians also have worked there on designs for prosthetic hands and molds for artificial eyes and teeth.

Over the years, the Navy Yard also has served as the scene for various ceremonial events. The first Japanese diplomatic mission was welcomed to the United States at the yard in 1860. Charles A. Lindbergh returned to the yard after his famous transatlantic flight in 1927.

Today, the Navy Yard is the headquarters for the Naval Sea Systems Command, which builds, buys and maintains ships, submarines and combat systems,  and is the workplace for about 3,000 people. It's also the home of the National Museum of the U.S. Navy and several other commands. The Navy's top admiral, Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert, lives at the yard, and was safely evacuated.

The facility is still surrounded by a white brick wall built in 1809.

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