Charlestown in Boston in Suffolk County, Massachusetts — The American Northeast (New England)
Dry Dock 1
Boston Nat’l Hist Pk
— Charlestown Navy Yard —
This stone and metal structure is Dry Dock 1, completed in 1833. As one of America’s first two granite dry docks, Dry Dock 1 made the repair of large naval ships faster, easier, and safer.
Returning warships to sea duty in less time was a crucial gain for a young nation with a limited budget and a small navy. Costing more than $1.5 million, the dry docks here in Charlestown and Norfolk, Virginia, were the largest civil works projects the federal government had ever undertaken. They proved that the nation was prepared to use its navy to protect its overseas trade.
The first vessel to enter Dry Dock 1 for repairs was USS Constitution in 1833. Today, Dry Dock 1, a working pioneer, is preserved as a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark.
Erected by National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior.
Topics and series. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Landmarks • Waterways & Vessels. In addition, it is included in the ASCE Civil Engineering Landmarks series list. A significant historical year for this entry is 1833.
Location. 42° Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Charlestown MA 02129, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Serving the Fleet (a few steps from this marker); Flags at Sea (a few steps from this marker); The Changing Yard (a few steps from this marker); "Old Ironsides" in Dry Dock 1 (a few steps from this marker); Boston, the Navy Yard, and the War of 1812 (within shouting distance of this marker); Life and Work in the Navy Yard 1812 (within shouting distance of this marker); Boston Naval Shipyard (within shouting distance of this marker); Men of the Boston Naval Shipyard (within shouting distance of this marker). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Boston.
More about this marker. The top right of the marker contains a picture of a ship on its side. It has a caption of “Careening. Without a dry dock, a ship must be careened at dockside. Careening, or ‘heaving down,’ a ship exposes only half of the hull at a time, requires major dismantling, and places great stress on a wooden hull. Occasionally, a ship would sink while being careened.”
The bottom of the marker features a number of pictures and illustrations. The first is of Laommi Baldwin (1780-1838), by Chester Harding. Chief Engineer Baldwin adapted concepts he had observed in Europe to design a dry dock complex that functioned as one large mechanism. Next to this is a copy of the Dry Dock Plan, signed “Nov. 4, 1828, L. Baldwin”. Baldwin’s innovative plan used the yard’s first steam engine, 16 large pumps to empty the dock’s basin, and a floating gate that sealed the dock from the sea. Next is a photograph of 1851: USS Constellation in Dry Dock. In the dry basin, keel blocks and supports held the vessel upright with its entire hull exposed. Workers could then quickly replace planking and re-caulk and re-copper the ship’s bottom. Finally, there is a photograph of 1961:USS Fred T. Berry in Dry Dock 1. The techniques of dry-docking, as well as Dry Dock 1 itself, are still in use today.
Credits. This page was last revised on January 30, 2023. It was originally submitted on April 30, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 2,457 times since then and 74 times this year. Last updated on November 8, 2010, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. Photos: 1, 2. submitted on April 30, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. 3. submitted on February 26, 2010, by Dale K. Benington of Toledo, Ohio. 4. submitted on April 30, 2009, by Bill Coughlin of Woodland Park, New Jersey. • Craig Swain was the editor who published this page.