I get asked all the time about the history of the Navy Yard and people are amazed that routinely most of the old structures were indeed built to stand the test of time. A 100 years old structure around here at NNSY is nothing out of the ordinary when you appreciate the knowledge, skill and craftsmanship that went into producing a quality facility meant to support our Navy.
Let’s have some fun looking back at three common locations that have stood up to the 100 year test of time. These are places you might not have given a second thought about just how old they really are. They are just background landscape as you travel past them every day.
1. The Fourth Street Gate (Gate 10) was laid out after the Government bought the adjacent plantation farmland just after 1900. This enabled the western edge of the Navy Yard (at that time) to become connected to the then remote Marine Barracks compound. The entire gate was widened in the 1930’s otherwise the concrete wall remains unchanged.
|Photo #1 ~ Looking Southeast Fourth Street Gate |
(Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #934 taken on 1/23/1914)
2. The Portsmouth Naval Hospital was constructed 1827-1830 making it the Navy’s oldest continuously operating hospital. Another set of wings were added onto each side the building supporting World War I but have now been removed in the 2010 timeframe to restore the facility back to its original appearance. Note the original facing stone return at corner of building, further down each side were open porches.
|Photo #2 ~ Looking Northwest Portsmouth Navy Hospital |
(Historic Norfolk Navy Yard Glass Plate Collection, #340 taken on 5/2/1904)
3. The Navy commissioned the first modern submarine USS Holland (SS-1) on 12 October 1900 at Newport Road Island. Holland finished her career at Norfolk, Virginia and her name was struck from the Naval Vessel Register on 21 November 1910. Knowing this fact we too had a part in the story of the first modern submarine. In this rare real picture postcard observe that yes, those are four submarines all at once sitting in Dry Dock # 1.
Submarine Fleet Flotilla in Dry Dock 1
SS-9 Octopus, SS-10 Viper, SS-11 Cuttlefish& SS-12 Tarantula
Real Picture Postcard circa 1909 Courtesy of Marcus W. Robbins
These are but three places and views in excess of 100 years old you can visit and touch today. Remember that quality construction design, quality materials and extraordinary workmanship have no bounds to the test of time because –“history matters”.