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The Washington Navy Yard's waterfront access has been utilized since establishment in 1799.   Under President Thomas Jefferson's direction, construction of ships began at the Yard with prototype gunboats.  The first ship built at the location was the sloop of war, Wasp.  Though construction of ships stopped in the mid-19th century, foreign sailing vessels and U.S. navy ships have moored at the piers for refitting, refurbishment, supplies, and installation of equipment.  Before aviation travel, the Yard was one of the major gateways into the nation's capital. 

In March 1912, the Yard received the victims from the armored cruiser Maine which tragically exploded in Havana Harbor, Cuba, in February 1898, becoming one of the reasons leading to the Spanish-American War.   Raised the previous year, the remains of the crew were brought by the Chester-class scout cruiser Birmingham for burial at Arlington National Cemetery.  The Yard was also the arrival point for the Unknown Servicemen, whom were later interned at Arlington National Cemetery.   The Unknown Soldier, transported by USS Olympia (C-6) arrived in 1921, and USS Blandy (DD-943) brought the Unknown Servicemen from both World War II and Korea in 1958. 

Other vessels associated with the Yard have been Presidental yachts.   These vessels hosted dignitaries and foreign officials.  In and out of service from 1902, the yachts were discontinued by President Jimmy Carter in 1977.  One U.S. Navy ship closely associated with the Yard is the decommissioned destroyer USS Barry (DD-933), which served as display ship from the 1983 to 2016.   Due to costly repairs and a planned new bridge that would have trapped her in the Anacostia River, the display ship was towed away. 

Image:  NH 108341:  USS Richmond (CL-9), Washington Navy Yard on Navy Day, October 27, 1931.  U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph.