With the success in the Spanish-American War, Americans needed a powerful navy to keep their newly found international stature. Captain Eugene H.C. Leutze led the large production needed, and due to the amount, it was outsourced for the first time. The Navy assigned the converted yachts Sylph (PY-12) and Mayflower (PY-1) between 1902-1929 for diplomatic duties of the President, the Secretary of the Navy, and other dignitaries. During the Great White Fleet voyage from 1907-1909, ordnance from the Naval Gun Factory ensured the fleet was well-armed. In the early days of Naval Aviation, Lieutenant Holden C. Richardson, the Navy’s first aviation engineering and maintenance officer, was assigned to the Yard in October 1911. Initiating a period of aviation testing in November 1912, Lieutenant T.G. “Spuds” Ellyson ’s plane was propelled into the air by a modified catapult in the Anacostia River.
Due to the outsourcing, the production at the Naval Gun Factory did not increase in large amounts before the United States entered World War I in April 1917. Despite that, with the Naval Act of 1916, the Navy bought land on the east and west sides of yard, filled in land on the waterfront, and hired thousands of new workers. Joining the war meant productivity increased. The Naval Gun Factory continued to make 14 and 16- inch guns for large navy vessels, along with 14-inch railway mounts for use on railway guns in France, and the Mark 6 Mines laid in the North Sea Mine Barrage. In October 1917, U.S. Naval Air Station, Anacostia, was established and future aviation testing would be done at that location. Following the war and treaties, production was greatly reduced in the next decade. In 1921, the Unknown Soldier was initially brought to the Yard onboard USS Olympia (CL-15) for internment in Arlington National Cemetery.
Washingtonians flocked to the Yard to greet Colonel Charles A. Lindberg following his Trans-Atlantic flight in June 1927. Also in that year, the Deep Diving School was established. Despite the Presidential yachts discontinued by President Herbert Hoover in 1929 due to the Great Depression, USS Sequoia (AG-23), a civilian cabin cruiser adapted by the Navy, was utilized when the President had official and social functions. After the 1936 flood, Rear Admiral Emory S. Land, Chief of Bureau of Construction, campaigned to have the Experimental Model Basin relocated to Carderock, Maryland. Between World Wars, the U.S. Navy Band also became a premier musical organization at the Yard.
In 1936, President Franklin D. Roosevelt obtained a larger Presidential yacht, USS Potomac (AG-25), where he hosted dignataries and built alliances. Despite the country in the midst of the Depression and the London Naval Treaty a few years earlier, Roosevelt increased naval construction. As a new war loomed at the end of the decade, Congress authorized production of 3,000 aircraft and a 20 percent increase in warship strength in May 1939.
Image: NH 91949: Panoramic view of the Navy Yard waterfront, looking north from across the Anacostia River, circa 1927. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph Collection.