“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Capitol Hill in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)

Washington Navy Yard: Serving the Fleet

Tour of Duty


—Barracks Row Heritage Trail —

Washington Navy Yard: Serving the Fleet Marker image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 5, 2008
1. Washington Navy Yard: Serving the Fleet Marker
Inscription. In front of you is the main gate of the Washington Navy Yard, established in 1799. It is the U.S. Navy's oldest shore facility in continuous use. Over time, workers here have built and repaired ships and their fittings, designed and developed ordnance (weapons and ammunition), and provided administrative support for the fleet.

Although city designer Pierre L'Enfant planned a commercial center for the site, its access to water and nearby timber made it a natural for ship building. The original gate, now topped by an 1878 addition, was designed in 1805 by architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe, the second architect of the U.S. Capitol.

The Navy Yard was nearly destroyed during the War of 1812. As British troops advanced on the city, the yard's commandant, Captain Thomas Tingey, ordered workers to set fire to buildings to keep them from the enemy. They spared only the Commandant's House, officers' quarters and the main gate. The Navy Yard was quickly rebuilt after the British withdrew.

The 22 vessels built here from 1806 until 18-1854 ranged from small 70-foot gunboats to the 246-foot steam frigate Minnesota. During this period, workers also repaired hundreds of ships and manufactured equipment, including anchors and chain cables. Engineers experimented with steam-powered warships.

The Navy Yard
The Latrobe Gate image. Click for full size.
By Richard E. Miller, August 5, 2008
2. The Latrobe Gate
now the Navy Yard's "ceremonial" entrance, off M Street, SE.
was the city's first reliable large employer. Unlike most southern enterprises, it offered well-paying skilled and unskilled jobs to both free Blacks and hired-out slaves. In addition, for more than a century, the Navy Yard was Washington's ceremonial gateway, welcoming important visitors to the nation's capital. (With thanks for research by Edward J. Marolda, Senior Historian, Naval Historical Center.)

Erected by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 9.)
Location. 38° 52.616′ N, 76° 59.71′ W. Marker is in Capitol Hill, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 8th Street, SE 0 miles north of M Street, SE, on the right when traveling south. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington Navy Yard DC 20374, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Washington Navy Yard: Maker of Weapons (a few steps from this marker); Latrobe Gate - Tingey House (about 400 feet away, measured in a direct line); The Washington Navy Yard (about 400 feet away); Leutze Park Gun Collection (about 500 feet away); Optical Tower - Second Officers House (about 600 feet away); Second Officer's House (about 600 feet away); The Center for Naval History - The Navy Museum (about 700 feet away); Leutze Park - Marine Corps Historical Center (approx. 0.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Capitol Hill.
More about this marker. [Photo captions:]

Shad fishermen on the Anacostia in 1861, with the ships and docks of the Navy Yard in the background.

Captain Thomas Tingey, the Navy Yard's first commandant, served for 30 days. His house, built in 1804, still stands inside the Navy Yard.

Rear Admiral David Taylor, a pioneer of ship design, created the Experimental Model Basin in 1898 to test models of innovative ship hulls.

Michael Shiner worked as both a slave and a freeman in the Navy Yard for 52 years. When he wrote this description of the British Army's advance on Washington, spelling was not yet standardize. Today his words would read: " soon as we got sight of the British army raising that hill, they looked like red flames of fire - all red coats and the stocks of their guns painted vermillion - and iron work shimmered like a Spanish dollar."

Between 1911 and 1917, the Navy Yard's experiments in its wind tunnel and with catapults helped develop the Navy's capacity to launch airplanes from warships.

In 1927, thousands of Washingtonians mobbed the Navy Yard, the city's ceremonial gateway, to welcome Charles Lindbergh home from his pioneering solo transatlantic flight.
Categories. African AmericansIndustry & CommerceLandmarksNotable PlacesWar of 1812Waterways & Vessels
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 1,985 times since then and 88 times this year. Last updated on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos:   1. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland.   2. submitted on , by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. • Kevin W. was the editor who published this page. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
Editor’s want-list for this marker. A photo of the marker and surrounding area in context. • Can you help?
Paid Advertisement