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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 Quarters.

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 house.

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