Washington Navy Yard: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Published:12:02 pm EDT, September 16, 2013| Updated:12:02 pm EDT, September 16, 2013|
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washington navy yard shooting, washington, history

Latrobe Gate, the ceremonial entrance to the Navy Yard

The Washington Navy Yard shooting is currently headlining the news.

Here's 5 fast facts about the Washington Navy Yard you need to know, including a previous terrorist attack on the compound in the 1980s.


1. The Washington Navy Yard is the Oldest Shore Establishment of the U.S. Navy

It is also the former shipyard and ordnance (storage of weapons, ammunition, and related equipment) plant of the United States Navy. It is located in Southeast Washington, D.C., and according to Wikipedia:

[It] serves as a ceremonial and administrative center for the U.S. Navy, home to the Chief of Naval Operations, and is headquarters for the Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Historical Center, the Department of Naval History, the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, Naval Reactors, Marine Corps Institute, the United States Navy Band, and other more classified facilities.


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2. The Land Was Purchased By Congress on July 23, 1799

In its early years, the Washington Navy Yard was the navy's largest shipbuilding facility. But after the War of 1812 with the British, its main function transferred to ordnance and technology. Some of the first steam engines in the United States were created in the Navy Yard, and by World War II the Yard was the largest naval ordnance plant in the world.

It became redesignated as an office complex in 1961 and was registered as a National Historic Landmark in 1976.

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Colored lithograph of Washington Navy Yard, circa 1862


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3. It is Culturally Significant for Americans

According to Wikipedia, the many feats accomplished at the Washington Navy Yard include:

Robert Fulton conducted research and testing on his clockwork torpedo during the War of 1812.

John A. Dahlgren developed his distinctive bottle-shaped cannon that became the mainstay of naval ordnance before the Civil War.

The giant gears for the Panama Canal locks were cast at the Yard. Navy Yard technicians applied their efforts to medical designs for prosthetic hands and molds for artificial eyes and teeth.

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Torpedo shop at the Washington Navy Yard, circa 1917


4. It Was Recognized as the Ceremonial Gateway to the Nation's Capitol Before Aviation

Many famous historicities occurred in front the Yard, including the welcoming of the first Japanese diplomats to the U.S., the reception of World War I's first Unknown Soldier, and Charles Lindbergh returned to the Navy Yard in 1927 after his transatlantic flight, to name a few.


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Damage from 1983 U.S. Senate Bombing


5. The Washington Navy Yard Has Been the Target of Suspected Terrorist Activities Before

In 1983, Washington Navy Yard’s Computer Center was damaged in a bombing. It was part of the Resistance Conspiracy that took place during the 1980s, the most famous of which was the 1983 U.S. Senate bombing.

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