Boston Naval Shipyard
(Charlestown Navy Yard)

Aerial view of Boston Naval Shipyard
Photo courtesy of Friends of the Charlestown Navy Yard
Established in 1800, Charlestown Navy Yard (formally designated the Boston Naval Shipyard in 1945) played an important role in the birth, growth and continued effectiveness of the U.S. Navy. The men and women employed at the Charlestown Navy Yard built more than 200 warships, maintained and repaired thousands of others, and proved their worth in each of the Nation's wars throughout its 174-year history. The Yard, consisting of industrial buildings, cranes, dry docks, slips, piers, residences and military buildings, is situated along the southeastern Charlestown waterfront in Boston's inner harbor. Some of the historically significant structures located within the boundaries of Charlestown Navy Yard are Dry Dock 1, which was built in 1827 as one of the first two dry docks in the country; the ropewalk designed by Alexander Parris, which began operation in 1838; and the chain forge, built in 1904, where die-lock chain was invented and perfected for production in 1926.

Built between 1827 and 1833 the Charlestown Naval Dry Dock, Boston, Massachusetts and the Gosport Naval Dry Dock, Norfolk, Virginia are two of the earliest major structures of their type in the United States. Despite the lack of scientific knowledge of hydraulics and geotechnology at the time, Loammi Baldwin II and his associated engineers successfully completed these projects which served the U.S. Navy for well over a century.

Dry Docks 1 (empty) and 2 (permanently flooded), and the ropewalk
Photos courtesy Boston National Historical Park

Throughout its history the Charlestown Navy Yard has been referred to by a number of different names. Navy tradition dictates that a shore station or yard was named after the largest city in the geographical area—in this case the U.S. Navy Yard, Boston. However, most yards were known by multiple names, the alternative, like Charlestown, usually being the name of the actual place where the yard was located. Throughout the 19th century, "navy yard at Boston " and "navy yard at Charlestown " frequently appeared in both correspondence and Congressional legislation, often interchangeably. It does not appear that there was ever a formal order naming the facility until the November 1945 reorganization of naval shore establishments, when it became the Boston Naval Shipyard.

Commandant's House (Quarters G), one of the 20 historic buildings of the Boston Naval Shipyard
Photo courtesy of OCLP, 2005
The shipyard closed in 1974, and that same year Congress passed the Boston National Historical Park Act of 1974. The act formalized Charlestown Navy Yard as the legal name of the property, and thirty acres of the original 129.5-acre navy yard were designated as part of the park. The remainder of the property was turned over to the City of Boston for redevelopment. The park contains 20 buildings, Dry Dock 1, three piers, and an assemblage of artifacts including a large collection of navy documents relating to the history of the facility. The USS Constitution and USS Cassin Young are also displayed, representing the types of vessels built in this shipyard.

Boston Naval Shipyard is located on the south side of Chelsea St. in the Charlestown area of Boston. It has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Thirty acres of the shipyard are managed by the National Park Service as part of Boston National Historical Park. Visitors are invited to begin at the Charleston Navy Yard Visitor Information Center located on the Freedom Trail near Gate 1 of the Navy Yard. The Information Center is open daily and provides program schedules. For further information on tour schedules or to make group reservations, visit the park's website or call 617-242-5601. The remainder of the shipyard property has been redeveloped for housing, offices and research laboratories. Various historic buildings related to the shipyard can be viewed on the streets located directly east and west of the park.

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