Capitol Hill in Washington, District of Columbia — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
Washington Navy Yard: Maker of Weapons
Tour of Duty
—Barracks Row Heritage Trail —
After the War of 1812, the Navy Yard's shipbuilding dwindled. The Anacostia River was too shallow and remote from the open sea for building large vessels. By the 1840s, weapons production dominated activities.
In 1886, the Naval Gun Factory was established. During World War II it was the world's largest, producing everything from precision gunsights to enormous 16-inch battleship guns. By 1962 missiles and aircraft made elsewhere had decreased demand for guns, so the factories closed. The yard became an administrative and supply center, with museums and parks. Operations slowed until 2001, when the Navy adapted dozens of manufacturing spaces for offices and the number of employees doubled.
The "castle" to your right is the old Navy Yard Car Barn, built in 1891 by the Washington and Georgetown Railroad Company for a brief experiment with cable cars.
When celebrated composer John Philip Sousa walked these streets, people called this Capitol Hill neighborhood “Navy Yard.” While the Navy Yard is no longer the area’s major employer, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Marine Corps still anchor this pleasant residential community and its vibrant commercial center on Eighth Street, SE, now known as Barracks Row. The 16 signs that mark this walking trail describe temporary sojourners as well as families who have lived here for many generations. From Michael Shiner an African American laborer working at the Navy Yard, to John Dahlgren, a weapons pioneer and confidant of President Abraham Lincoln, their experiences have given the community its distinctive character. Follow this trail to the places that tell these stories and much, much more.
Tour of Duty: Barracks Row Heritage Trail, a booklet of the trail’s highlights, is available at
List of contributors and sponsors to the Barracks Row Heritage Trail.
Caption: Workers put the finishing touches on the exterior – and the interior – of a 13-inch gun at the Naval Gun Factory, around 1910.
Naval Historical Center
Erected 2004 by Cultural Tourism DC. (Marker Number 10.)
Marker series. This marker is included in the Barracks Row Heritage Trail marker series.
Location. 38° 52.604′ N, 76° 59.705′ W. Marker is in Capitol Hill, District of Columbia, in Washington. Marker is on 8th Street Southeast 0 miles north of M Street Southeast, on the right when traveling south. Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Washington Navy Yard DC 20374, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Washington Navy Yard: Serving the Fleet (a few steps from this marker); Serving as the City's Diplomatic Gateway (within shouting distance of this marker); Receiving Honored Servicemembers and Dignitaries (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Latrobe Gate - Tingey House (about 300 feet away); The Washington Navy Yard William Prout: Community Builder (about 400 feet away); Teaching Sailors for the Fleet (about 400 feet away); Leutze Park Gun Collection (about 400 feet away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Capitol Hill.
More about this marker. [Illustration captions:]
"Awful explosion of the Peacemaker" by N. Currier illustrates the 1844 accident that led to the creation of the Navy Yard's weapons testing facilities. A gun exploded during a VIP demonstration test, killing President John Tyler's Secretaries of State and Navy and nearly killing the President himself.
Commander John A. Dahlgren, top, the "father of American naval ordnance, "created a modern-style research and development program in the 1850s and invented the distinctive "soda-water bottle" shaped cannon in time for the Civil War. President Lincoln often visited his good friend Dahlgren here.
An electric streetcar, adapted from an earlier experimental cable car, awaits passengers on M Street in front of the Navy Yard Car Barn around 1902. In later years this building was known as the Blue Castle.
Over more than two centuries, the Navy Yard has expanded along the Anacostia riverfront, erasing the original shoreline as landfill was added. Employment peaked in 1944 at 26,000.
In 1943 the National Youth Administration sent Juanita Gray to work on a metal lathe at the Navy Yard for $45 per week.
Categories. • Military • War, World II •
Credits. This page was last revised on March 15, 2019. This page originally submitted on August 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. This page has been viewed 4,011 times since then and 11 times this year. Last updated on March 7, 2019, by Devry Becker Jones of Washington, District of Columbia. Photos: 1. submitted on August 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 2. submitted on December 2, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. 3, 4. submitted on August 29, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 5. submitted on September 2, 2008, by Richard E. Miller of Oxon Hill, Maryland. 6, 7, 8. submitted on August 29, 2008, by Craig Swain of Leesburg, Virginia. 9. submitted on December 2, 2016, by J. Makali Bruton of Querétaro, Mexico. • Bill Pfingsten was the editor who published this page.