Boston...must always remain, a Building place & a place of Rendezvous for our Navy...
-Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert to President John Adams, 25 April, 1800
Though ships such as USS Constitution were strongly built and well designed, they required constant maintenance to remain reliable and seaworthy. Navy Yards were needed to maintain and resupply existing naval warships and to construct eventual replacements as technology rapidly changed. Established in 1800, the Charlestown Navy Yard was one of the original six yards created to support the young United States Navy. For the next 174 years, the yard served as a hub of innovation, an employer of skilled workers, and a home to Naval officers, sailors, and U.S. Marines.
The heart of the original Navy Yard is preserved as a historic site open to visitors year-round. The most popular attractions in the yard are the two historic warships who call the Navy Yard home: The undefeated sailing frigate USS Constitution and the 20th century Fletcher class destroyer USS Cassin Young. Both are examples of what the yard built, repaired, and maintained for two centuries. The two ships also illustrate the transition that the Navy underwent as it shifted from timber and sail to steel and steam. Museum exhibits about the Constitution, Cassin Young, and the Navy Yard, are at the nearby USS Constitution Museum and the Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center.
Learn more about the historic ships at the Charlestown Navy Yard:
Serving the U.S. Navy from 1800-1974
The Charlestown Navy Yard built, repaired, modernized, and resupplied ships for 174 years. From here ships and the sailors serving aboard set off to places around the globe. The ships that left this yard represented the United States on every continent and defended the nation through both times of war and peace. The generations of workers at this yard took pride in the significance of what they contributed and the work that they completed. For many sailors, this was the last place they might touch American soil for months, years, or perhaps never again.
Operationally, the yard saw many periods of expansion and decline as the policies of the United States changed over the course of two centuries. Technologically, the yard saw constant transformation and acted as a hub of innovation. When the yard opened it serviced wooden sailing ships and employed tradesmen such as carpenters, ropemakers, and ship riggers. When the yard closed in 1974, the yard had welders, electricians, machinists, ironworkers, pipefitters and engineers.
Explore more through the ships the Navy Yard built, and the people who worked and served:
174 Years of Innovation
Follow the Navy Yard's story through the ships produced here - from a wooden 74 gun "Ship-of-the-Line" to a steel tank landing ship.
Shipyard Women of the Navy
During the Second World War women were called to fill the jobs left by men at the front. Over 8,000 women worked here at this shipyard.
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Last updated: January 20, 2021