Washington Navy Yard, Naval Gun Factory and Naval Weapons Plant
Overall Views 19th Century



By the time of the Civil War, the Washington Navy Yard was well into its change to a heavy industrial facility. After the steam frigate Minnesota, launched in December 1855 and completed in May 1857, only one more significant ship would be fully constructed there, the gunboat Nipsic during 1873-79. The Navy Yard built and installed machinery for several ships during the 1860s, and continued to do ship repairs long after that, but its efforts were increasingly concentrated on ordnance manufacture and testing.

Though the waterfront area was still dominated by two big wooden ship houses, one oriented roughly east-west near the western end of the yard, and the other running north-south at the eastern end, many new buildings were erected to support ordnance manufacturing. Among these was an ornate foundry to the north of the western shiphouse, and nearby, the large brick "quadrangle", measuring some 300 feet wide by 400 feet long. The latter is still in use and looks much as it did in the 1860s, though its interior and its purposes have been greatly changed.

Just inland from the waterfront, and east of the western shiphouse, a long shed-like structure was built to serve as an experimental gun battery. From it, guns could be fired down the Anacostia River, where points of impact could be precisely observed, allowing scientific testing of guns, gun propellants and projectiles at the ranges typical of Naval weapons in the muzzle-loading age.

Immediately south of the Commandant's Office, a house-like structure about in the middle of the yard's waterfront side, a semi-circular park was established to hold captured guns. Most of these weapons, trophies of the conflict with the Confederacy, remain on exhibition at the Navy Yard in the Twenty-First Century.

Also in front of the Commandant's Office, but closer to the river, a large pile of coal was much in evidence, fuel for ships and for the furnaces and steam boilers of the yard's industries. Among the factory buildings, tall smokestacks further attested to coal's importance to "iron-age" industry.

This page features 19th Century overall views of the Washington Navy Yard, and provides links to similar images of later date.

For overall views of the Washington Navy Yard in the 20th Century, see:

Click the photograph to prompt a larger view.

Photo #: NH 51928-KN (Color)

"The Washington Navy Yard, with Shad Fishers in the Foreground"

Hand color-tinted copy of a line engraving published in "Harper's Weekly", 20 April 1861, depicting the Washington Navy Yard, District of Columbia, as seen from the southern side of the Anacostia River.
Note the uncompleted U.S. Capitol dome in the center distance.

Courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, D.C.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 118KB; 740 x 560 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 79896-KN (Color)

Washington Navy Yard, District of Columbia

Colored lithograph published by E. Sachse & Company, Baltimore, Maryland, circa 1862. It depicts the Navy Yard as seen from above the Anacostia River, looking north, with Building # 1 and the trophy gun park in the center.

Courtesy of Mrs. Worth Sprunt, 1974.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 84KB; 740 x 475 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 91937

Washington Navy Yard, District of Columbia


Sketch of the Navy Yard, looking north from off the waterfront in 1861. USS Pensacola is fitting out at left, near the western shiphouse. The eastern shiphouse is at right and the Commandant's Office is in the right center, next to the flagpole.

Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute Photographic Collection, 1981.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 95KB; 740 x 515 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 91955

Washington Navy Yard, District of Columbia


Engraved view of the Navy Yard, looking north from off the waterfront in 1861.

Courtesy of the U.S. Naval Institute Photographic Collection, 1981.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 67KB; 740 x 425 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 86613

Washington Navy Yard, D.C.


View from off the Yard's waterfront, looking northward, circa 1874-76, with USS Alarm in the center and the receiving ship Relief at left.
The western shiphouse is in the left distance. Also note the sheer crane and boathouse in the right part of the view.
Photo mounted on a stereograph card. It was produced by J.F. Jarvis, 135 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, D.C.

Courtesy of Robert A. Truax, 1978, and James Dolph, 1990.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage CommandPhotograph.

Online Image: 122KB; 630 x 675 pixels

A stereo pair version of this image is available as Photo # NH 86613-A

Online Image of stereo pair: 57KB; 675 x 350 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 91863

Washington Navy Yard, District of Columbia


Engraving by R. Metzere, published by C. Bohn, depicting the Navy Yard in about 1880, looking north from the hills beyond the southern side of the Anacostia River. The U.S. Capitol is in the left center distance.

U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.

Online Image: 120KB; 740 x 555 pixels

 
Photo #: NH 91862

Washington Navy Yard, District of Columbia


Engraving depicting the Navy Yard in 1888, looking NNW from the Anacostia River (also known as the Eastern Branch of the Potomac).

U.S. Naval History and Heritage CommandPhotograph.

Online Image: 119KB; 740 x 480 pixels

 



For higher resolution images see: Obtaining Photographic Reproductions

To the best of our knowledge, the pictures referenced here are all in the Public Domain, and can therefore be freely downloaded and used for any purpose.





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