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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060

U.S. Government Land Acquisition Relating to the Washington Navy Yard, 1797-1932


Location. - Between M Street SE., and Anacostia River; bounded on east by Eleventh Street, and on west by New Jersey Avenue and Second Street SE.

Area. - 121.26 acres (107.24 hard, 14.02 water). The area now occupied by the Washington Navy Yard is comprised of (a) original squares 770, 771, 801, 802, 803, 826, 827, 853, 854, 883, 884, 953, 954, 955, 977, 978, 979, (b) public appropriation no.14 set aside in 1797-98 as a navy yard, (c) the area west of the new Anacostia Bridge and a prolongation of the west line of Eleventh Street into Anacostia River, and (d) Reservation No 17E, a public area west of Second Street to New Jersey Avenue, (e) all accretions along the the meanderings of the Anacostia River between Second Street and the west face of Anacostia Bridge at Eleventh Street, and (f) all streets, alleys, and public areas south of M Street between New Jersey Avenue and Second to Eleventh Streets.

Cost. - $902,650.51. (See "Naval expenditures, 1934".)[see note at end of text for a full citation of this document.].

Authority for purchase. - First acquisition, 1797 . - Original "Appropriation."

Second acquisition, 1801. - Purchase of two squares (883 and 884).

Third acquisition, 1902. - Additional land acquired south of M Street to Eastern Branch and from Canal Street to Fourth Street, by authority of act approved July 1, 1902 (32 Stat. 673), appropriating $100,000.

Fourth Acquisition, 1916. - Area south of M Street to Fourth Street and west to Second Street (and wharf property) authorized by act approved August 29, 1916 (30 Stat. 565), appropriating $331,000, and unexpended balances from former appropriations.

Fifth acquisition, 1918. - Land taken by Executive Order No.1472, dated August 7, 1918, issued under authority act July 1, 1918 (40 Stat. 724). Additional appropriation by act February 25, 1919, $100,000.

First acquisition. On January 24, 1791, President Washington signed a proclamation fixing the boundaries of the District of Columbia. Thereupon the original owners of tracts within the limits of the city of Washington entered into agreements in writing with the commissioners appointed to act on behalf of the United States whereby they transferred to said commissioners their lands upon condition that the Government lay out a city into squares, lots, avenues, and streets, and divide the lots so laid out with the original proprietors after first making appropriation of such lands as were deemed necessary as reservation for use by the Federal Government.

On March 2, 1797, President Washington approved what was known as the Dermott map, and on that date issued an Executive order requesting Thomas Beall, of George, and John M. Gantt, to convey all streets delineated thereon, and also the several squares, parcels, and lots, including:

Fourteen. The appropriation bounded on the west by the east side of Seventh Street East, on the northwest by the south side of Georgia Avenue, on the north by the south side of M Street, on the west by the west side of Ninth Street East, and on the south by the Eastern Branch of the Anacostia River.

On July 25, 1798, President John Adams also approved the map and issued an Executive order requesting the said Thomas Beall, of George, and John M. Gantt, to convey to Gustavus Scott, William Thorton, and Alexander White, and their successors, all of the streets in the city of Washington as they were laid out on said map and all the squares, parcels, and lots described in the order of the late President Washington as "public appropriations." Annexed to this order of President Adams is a statement of the quantity of land appropriated to the use of the United States in the city of Washington. Appropriation no. 14 is described as "the navy yard square," at the time containing an area of 12 acres, 3 roods, and 15 poles.

Although there is found no act of transfer of the lands held in trust by Beall and Gantt as trustees, or by the original proprietors, such a transfer presumably was made as evidenced by the numerous transfers of the commissioners by deeds to various parties.

Second acquisition. - On January 12, 1801, the Secretary of the Navy reported to the House Naval Affairs Committee that ground in the city of Washington had been acquired for $4,000 as a site for a navy yard, although no money had been directly appropriated nor was the purchase expressly authorized by Congress. The Secretary of the Navy further reported to Congress that "no express provision was made by Congress for establishing navy yards for the first six frigates directed by law (act Feb. 25, 1799, 1 Stat. 621), but as vessels so large cannot be built without first erecting wharves or extending wharves before erected, both things were done." Thereafter by act of March 3, 1801 (2 Stat. 123), Congress appropriated the sum of $500,000 "for expenses attending 74-gun ships or for completing navy yards, docks, wharves."

The purchase described in the Secretary's report was of two squares - numbers 883 and 884 - which lie west of the original land included in appropriation no. 14. Deed from Gustavus Scott and William Thornton, commissioners, dated March 17, 1800, recorded in book 5, folio 149, land record books, Territory of Columbia, Md.

Thus these two additional lots (883 and 884) and the original appropriation no. 14, became the navy yard in 1801.

Maps on file in the Navy Department show that in 1800 only one-half of the area between Ninth and Canal Streets south of M Street was land, the remainder being under water. [A map dated 1792, depicting the shoreline is on page 5 of: Peck, Taylor. Round Shots to Rockets: A History of the Washington Navy Yard and U.S. Naval Gun Factory. Annapolis MD: United States Naval Institute, 1949.].

Third acquisition. - No additional land was acquired after 1801 until 1902, when, by authority of act approved July 1,1902 (32 Stat. 673), appropriating $100,000, the various lots within the area of this acquisition were acquired by deed from their respective owners executed on various dates from December 29, 1902, to January 8, 1906.
All original instruments on file in office of Judge Advocate General of the Navy. [For current location of documents see note at end of text].

Total cost of land within this acquisition, $100,424.98, deficiency being supplied by act approved March 3, 1903 (32 Stat. 1051).

Fourth acquisition
. - Area south of M Street to Anacostia River, east by Fourth Street and west by Second Street consisting of Squares 770-771-801, 803, and wharf property south of square 771 authorized by act August 29, 1916 (39 Stat. 565), "Navy Yard Washington, for the acquisition by purchase or condemnation of such lands in vicinity of Navy Yard, Washington, D. C., as in the judgment of the Secretary of the Navy it shall be deemed expedient to require for additions to said navy yard $331,000; and in addition to said sum the unexpended balances of appropriations in act March 3, 1907 (34 Stat. 1187), for a railroad bridge and track at Washington Navy Yard, and of the appropriation in the act of June 24, 1910 (35 Stat. 615-616), authorizing the Secretary of the Navy to enter into an agreement with Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington Railroad Co. for construction of track connections to the Washington Navy Yard and the acquisition of land necessary in connection therewith, are hereby reappropriated and made available for the acquisition of such additional lands..."

Title to area within this acquisition acquired by various deeds executed by respective owners of individual lots, these deeds ranging in dates from December 13, 1916, to November 27, 1917. Original deeds on file in office of Judge Advocate General of the Navy. [For current location of documents see note at end of text.]. Total cost of land within this acquisition, $438,627.93.

Fifth acquisition. - By Executive order, August 7, 1918, no. 1472, all parcels of laud within the District of Columbia not owned by the United States lying south of the south line of M Street SE., west of the west line of Eleventh Street SE.; north of the south line of O Street SE., and east of the west line or Ninth Street SE., were taken over as an addition to the Naval Gun Factory, Washington, D. C.

Title to lots within this acquisition is further evidenced by various deeds and "releases" executed by the former individual owners, all of which instruments are duly recorded in the land records of the District of Columbia, and the original instruments being on file in the office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy. [For current location of documents see note at end of text.].

Streets, alleys, etc. - That portion of Eleventh Street SE., lying south of the south line of O Street SE., and west of the west face of the new Anacostia Bridge was abandoned and closed and said portion of said street together with such lands owned by the United States as is bound on the north by the south line of O Street, on the east by the west face of the new Anacostia Bridge, on the south by the waters of the Anacostia River, and on the west by the west line of Eleventh Street extending in a southerly direction from its point of intersection with the south line of O Street and its intersection with the waters of the Anacostia River, was set aside and reserved for naval purposes and placed under the control of the Secretary of the Navy with the proviso that proper authorities of the District of Columbia shall have access to the area above described for purposes of examination of and repairs to the said bridge; and canceling all leases in favor of parties occupying said area in accordance with terms of leases. Act July 1, 1918 (40 Stat. 724).

In act July 1,1918 (40 Stat. 724), appropriating $488,000 for purchase of land to the east of Ninth Street to Eleventh Street it was provided "that upon acquisition of land hereby authorized, all portions of public streets on which any squares so taken over shall abut and lying between the same and all public alleys within said squares together with such portions of streets and public alleys as lie between the present navy yard and the land so acquired, are hereby abandoned and closed and said portions of said streets and public alleys shall be regarded as set apart and reserved for naval purposes."

Proclamation by President of the United States pursuant to act July 1, 1918 (40 Stat. 724), dated August 7, 1918, no. 1472, page 6, took title to on behalf of the United States and authorizes the Secretary of the Navy to take possession of the lands south of M between Ninth and Eleventh Streets.

Railroad siding to Navy Yard, Washington D.C., connecting with tracks of Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington Railroad Co., was authorized by act July 24, 1910, to be built at the expense of the railroad company, and to connect with track system at the navy yard at east line of Ninth Street, and authorizing building of said track on public ground or streets; purchase and condemnation of necessary private property authorized and $146,000 appropriated for this purpose (36 Stat. 615) and amendment of August 29, 1916 (39 Stat. 555-556).

Act August 29, 1916 (39 Stat. p. 566-567), authorized the closing of all streets, alleys, and public grounds lying south of the north line of Potomac Avenue between the west boundary of the navy yard (then Canal Street) and the east line of Second Street and such other Government-owned land lying between the east line of said navy yard (then Ninth Street) and west line of Eleventh Street prolonged in a southerly direction and including all lands now occupied by the navy yard, was regarded as set apart for naval purposes.

Reservation 17E originally occupied as part of the Washington Navy Yard by permit from the War Department. This area is composed

Public reservation no. 17E described as bounded north by M Street, east by Second Street, south by N Street, and west by New Jersey Avenue, was created by filling of the canal on Second Street from the Anacostia River north to M Street SE. By authority of act August 1, 1914 (38 Stat. 663), "All public spaces resulting from the filling of canals in the original city of Washington not now under the jurisdiction of the Chief of Engineers of the United States Army, except such portions as are included in the navy yard or in actual use as a roadway and sidewalks, and except the portions assigned by law to the District of Columbia as a property yard and the location of a sewage pumping station, respectively, are placed under the jurisdiction of the Chief of Engineers and shall be laid out as part of the park system of the District of Columbia."

By permit May 5, 1917, from the Secretary of War, reservation 17E was occupied by the Navy and added to the navy yard property.

July 10, 1918, permit to inclose with fence and lay more tracks, obtained from War Department. Act June 18, 1932 (33 Stat. 103), recognized the control and occupancy for naval purposes and authorized sale of certain trackage and the granting of a right-of-way to the Philadelphia, Baltimore & Washington Railroad Co.

By agreement dated December 31, 1932, the right to cross reservation 17E was granted to the railroad company by the Secretary of the Navy, pursuant to the act of 1932 above recited.



Source and notes:

US Navy. Bureau of Yards and Docks. Federal Owned Real Estate Under the Control of the Navy Department. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1937, pp. 83-86. [This publication provides information concerning the title of the United States Government to property under the control of the Navy Department, and identifies relevant executive orders under which property was reserved from the public domain for naval purposes. Compilation of these data was begun on 28 January 1933 and completed by 20 January 1937. Documents listed as "on file in the office of the Judge Advocate General of the Navy" are currently located at: Engineering Field Activity Chesapeake, Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Washington Navy Yard, 805 KIDDER BREESE SE, Washington DC 20374. "Naval Expenditures, 1934" refers to: U.S. Navy Dept. Bureau of Supplies and Accounts. Naval Expenditures 1934. Washington DC: Government Printing Office, 1935.].

5 June 1998