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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
History of Officers Quarters
Tingey House (Quarters A, Ca.1804)
Related Resource: Tingey House
(Quarters A): Architecture and History
The Commandant's House (now known as the Tingey House,
or Quarters A) was the second set of quarters to be built and
was "on the highest point of the Yard to be able to view
all," according to Benjamin Latrobe's plan for the Yard.
The brick, Georgian-style house was probably built by Lovering
and Dyer of Washington in 1804.
Over the ensuing years numerous renovations were made to
this building and site.
The 1814 plan of the Yard indicated that the northeast
section between the house and the boundary walls was a garden.
An ice house was added in the northeast corner of the garden against
the wall in 1837. The 1858 plan of the Navy Yard showed a formal
garden in the same location. There were six rectangles of equal
size with a gazebo at the intersection closest to the residence.
There were also three small rectangles to the south side of the
larger ones which may have constituted a flower border. The 1858
plan also showed stables belonging to the Commandant's Quarters
along the east wall between the northeast corner and the Commander's
In 1869, the Commandant's quarters were "extensively
redone," although specifics were not mentioned. A description
of the renovations done in 1881 mentions an office room added
to the east porch and a projection of the front porch built to
extend over the main steps. A new water closet was installed in
the principal bathroom.
Quarters B (Ca. 1801)
Related Resource: Quarters B:
Architecture and history
The oldest of the officer's quarters at the
Washington Navy Yard was originally known as the Commander's Quarters
and was the residence of the second officer of the Yard. Today
it is referred to as Quarters B. It has the distinction of being
the first permanent building on the Washington Navy Yard, although
the precise date of its construction has long been in question.
Some accounts say the building was on the site of the Navy Yard
when the property was originally purchased; other sources suggest
it was built by Lovering and Dyer of Washington between 1801 and
1802. Lieutenant John Cassin was one of the first residents of
those quarters when he was appointed to superintend the Navy Yard
in 1803. Along with Quarters A and the Latrobe Gate, it escaped
destruction in the burning of the Navy Yard in August 1814.
Quarters B was substantially enlarged and altered over
the years. The 1836 report of the Bureau of Yards and Docks states
that piazzas were added to this quarters. The first of numerous
requests for money to be appropriated for the building of a new
set of Commander's Quarters was also made that year. The justification
was detailed. Quarters B was described as being infested with
insects, and its location, up against the east wall of the Yard,
made for poor air circulation which was exacerbated by a slaughter
house and pig pen located in close proximity to the Navy Yard.
This made living conditions there intolerable, particularly in
the summer months when the smell and noise from the slaughter
house meant closing the windows. The theory that disease was caused
by vapors led to a belief that the site was unhealthy. A letter
from the Surgeon of the Yard to the Commandant attested to the
"stench" and unhealthy atmosphere brought on by the
slaughter house; the annual reports of the Bureau of Yards and
Docks mentioned futile efforts by both the local and federal government
to close the facility. When requests were made for additional
land to be purchased for expansion of the Yard, the property on
the eastern side included the site of the objectionable slaughter
An 1853 report had a plan for a proposed new set of Commander's
Quarters; a detailed estimate of cost ($9,181.17) appeared in
the 1856 Bureau of Yards and Docks report. The first site proposed
for these quarters was the west side of the Yard, close to the
north wall and near a small entry gate that once existed along
that wall. By 1856, the proposed site was shifted to the east
side of Quarters F. The proposed building featured an impressive
facade with doric columns on either side of a large set of double
entry doors. The cost estimate mentioned above was for a considerably
scaled down version. But no building actually was built.
Quarters C and D (1878)
The site which is now Quarters C and D was
originally the location of a water reservoir. The proposal for
this reservoir first appeared in 1852 when a plan for an octagonal-shaped
brick cistern was submitted. The following year a lengthy justification
was added to the proposal which described the drinking water on
the Navy Yard as brackish and impure. It was pointed out that
drinking water was hauled in barrels to the various quarters from
Carroll's Spring, located on land owned by Daniel Carroll west
of the yard, and the Navy Yard employed 27 water boys at 50 cents
a day to meet the needs of the Yard. The building of a cistern
to hold 120,000 gallons of water piped in from Carroll's Spring
was argued to be cost effective. A brick cistern appeared on the
1858 plan of the Yard, and was designated a "reservoir."
No mention was ever made of tearing it down, but it disappeared
from the yearly plan by the late 1870s, and in 1878 a set of drawings
for a three story brick house with basement was proposed for that
site. The 1879 report showed it completed as Quarters C and D,
the residences of the Naval Constructor and Civil Engineer.
Quarters E, F, and G (1837)
Quarters F, which was originally described
as being the residence of the Master of the Yard, Surgeon, and
Lieutenant, was begun in 1837 and additions were made in 1841
and 1842. A proposal was made in 1844 to add an "eating room,
additional bed chamber and enlarge the door between the parlor
to be thrown into one for pleasure." It was also mentioned
that these quarters were only "half the size of quarters
for officers of the same rank at other yards." These changes
were never implemented.
From the late 1860s through the 1880s, a considerable effort
was made to upgrade and build new quarters at the Navy Yard. Quarters
F once again was specified for improvements. This triplex (later
shown as Quarters E-F-G) now housed the Commander, Surgeon, and
Civil Engineer. In 1865 it was proposed to add an additional story
to Quarters F; the justification harked back to the one made twenty
years before--the building was far too cramped and inadequate
for officers quarters. Plans were submitted and a cost estimate
was detailed. The 1869 report indicated new windows were installed
in the parlor of Quarters E, as well as a new basement floor with
a cement base. The same proposal went forward for the next several
years, but in 1873, Rear Admiral Louis M. Goldsborough, the Commandant
at the time, stated that the additional story to Quarters E-F-G
was unjustifiable. Congress did however, in 1880, approve the
addition of another story and a double porch on the front was
added as well. The plumbing was overhauled and the Quarters were
connected to the main sewer line.
Quarters H (Built before 1824; rebuilt 1879)
Quarters H was originally shown as Gunner's
Quarters on early plans of the Navy Yard. A building was on that
location as early as 1824. The Gunner's Shop was located just
east of it against the north wall. These quarters were later to
become the Ordnance Officer's Quarters, and then the Inspector
of Ordnance's Quarters. The 1854 plan of the Navy Yard showed
a 31 by 17 foot addition to the structure on the west side together
with another addition, 12 1/2 by 10 feet, further to the west.
The building, measuring 53 by 19 1/2 feet, was described in 1868
as being "very inferior," although extensive work was
done to improve its habitability. A proposal was submitted in
1869 to build a new set of quarters directly in front of the existing
set. The reports state that in 1873, Quarters H was extensively
repaired, but specifics are wanting. By 1877 the floor joists
to this building needed to be replaced and the basement excavated
of decaying debris which collected there. There was an apparent
difference in elevation between M street on the outside of the
north wall, and the Quarters which were against the interior wall.
Since the street was higher, water and debris flowed into the
basement, creating an unsavory situation. A cement floor was laid,
slate was added to the foundation walls, and the basement was
vented to the chimney.
In 1879, Quarters H was transformed. Instead of constructing
a new building, an addition was built on the east side of the
house and the quarters were changed from a modest two-story brick
house to what can be described as an asymmetrical Gothic-revival
style building. In addition to erecting the new wing on the east
side, defects in the sewers and drains were remedied at this time.
On the 1855 and 1858 plans of the Navy Yard, an ice house
was located on the southwest side of Quarters H. It was an octagonal
brick building built partially underground. It also appears in
early photographs of the Navy Yard. The structure disappeared
from plans after 1890.
Quarters K, L, and M (Built 1857; rebuilt 1889)
A proposal for a muster house was first submitted
in 1855 and after several proposed locations, it was finally built
in 1857 west of Quarters F. The building was an octagon with a
porch as a shelter; on the first floor were two rooms for roll
call and two rooms for clerks. The second floor had rooms for
the Civil Engineer, a draughtsman, and a clerk. A rectangular
extension to the muster house, extending to the north wall, appeared
on the 1860 plan of the Yard. By 1869 however, the function of
this building changed. When a new muster house was located near
the northwest entrance to the Navy Yard, the old building housed
the Civil Engineer; two rooms were devoted to conducting courts-
martial. By 1889 money was appropriated to convert the old muster
house building to what was to be called Quarters K-L-M. A dispensary,
located between the Engineering offices and Quarters E-F-G, made
an appearance in 1869 plans of the yard.
Quarters N and O (Built 1865; rebuilt 1891-92)
In addition to the quarters located along
the north wall, an old paint shop was located not far past Quarters
H west of the Latrobe Gate. It was used as a museum in the 1860s.
A new paint shop was built in 1865; this building was later converted
to a duplex about 1891-92 and became Quarters N and O.
Quarters P and Q (1880-81)
The Latrobe Gate was also altered during the late 19th
Century. The building on the northwest side of the gate was the
Marine Barracks; on the northeast side stood the Marine Officer's
Quarters. In 1823, when Lieutenant Charles R. Broome, USMC, took
command of the Marine guard at the Navy Yard, he observed that
the Marine Officers' Quarters were "not comfortable, having
no kitchen and being somewhat out of repair." The Commandant,
Captain Thomas Tingey, recommended that a second story be added.
The first specific reference to improvements made to this residence
was in 1869 when a marble mantle and parlor stoves were installed
in the parlors. In 1878 it was repainted and the ceiling replastered.
A three-story building that extended over the top of the Latrobe
Gate was constructed in 1880-81.
20 October 1997