authorized by the first Secretary of the Navy, Benjamin Stoddard, is the U.S. Navy's oldest shore establishment. It occupies land set aside by George Washington for use by the federal government. The Navy Yard expanded rapidly as a shipbuilding facility until 1814 when British troops occupied Washington and the Yard's first commandant, Captain Thomas Tingey, was ordered to burn the base to prevent its falling into enemy hands.
Rebuilt after the War of 1812, the Yard continued to construct ships, but by the 1850s its primary function had evolved into ordnance production. The engineering genius of Lieutenant John Dahlgren (twice commandant of the Yard) nurtured this development, and in 1886 the Navy concentrated its ordnance work at what came to be known as the Naval Gun Factory.
In addition to ordnance, other notable United States technological achievements at the Yard include: the first marine railway (1822), the first ship model basin (1898), the first successful shipboard catapult (1912), and a wind tunnel (1914).
Expanding to meet the needs of a growing fleet during World War I, the Yard designed and manufactured the Navy's first 16" guns as well as well as the innovative U.S. Navy Railway Batteries that served in France. Mobilization for World War II resulted in further expansion. While the Yard administered the program for production of naval ordnance by private industry, it directed its own efforts on the design and testing of new weapons and the production of 16" guns.
When industrial production ceased in 1961, the facility became a supply and administrative center. Once again designated as the Washington Navy Yard, this historic complex has become the ceremonial quarterdeck of the Navy.