To meet the needs of an expanding navy, in 1899 the United States Naval Committee solicited proposals to build a new ship construction and repair facilities. At the urging of South Carolina Senator Benjamin "Pitchfork" Tillman and Charleston Mayor J. Adger Smyth, the Navy agreed to locate a shipyard on the lands formerly part of Marshlands, Mon Repos, and Retreat Plantations. Construction began in 1901.
The decision was made to close the Naval Base in 1993. The Base officially closed April 1, 1996, although the Navy presence continues locally at the Naval Weapons Station located north of the City. The Naval Weapons Station and the Charleston Air Force Base now comprise Joint Base Charleston. The Navy's contribution to this area is commemorated in the nearby Greater Charleston Naval Base Memorial.
After the close of the Base, the property was divided between the City of North Charleston and the South Carolina State Ports Authority. Since that time, the Ports Authority has begun construction of the Navy Base Terminal on the southern end of the former Base, and the facility is anticipated to open in 2018. The northern end of the Base is currently being redeveloped in a broad range of industrial, commercial, residential, and recreational uses.
Charleston Navy Yard Historic District
Marker Location: 1975 North Hobson Avenue
After an uncertain beginning in 1901, activity at the Navy Yard increased between 1910 and 1917 with the addition of a torpedo base and a facility for new ship construction. After World War I, activity at the yard declined. However, with America's entry into World War II in 1941, the Charleston Navy Yard again experienced a period of significant growth. At its peak in 1943, the Charleston Navy Yard employed over 25,000 workers.Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination; Charleston Navy Yard Historic District
Charleston Naval Hospital Historic District
Marker Location 1960 Turnbull Avenue
The earliest medical facilities at the Charleston Navy Yard consisted of tents erected in 1902 to house construction workers. The first hospital was built in 1917 to accommodate an expanding labor force during World War I.
The majority of the buildings were constructed from the late 1930s, just prior to the entry of the United States into World War II, until the late 1940s. The main hospital complex, built from 1940-1942, consisted of two central buildings with eight treatment wings and a central courtyard.
The hospital continued to serve the Charleston Naval Base until a new high-rise hospital was constructed on Rivers Avenue in 1972.Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination; Charleston Naval Hospital Historic District
Charleston Navy Yard Officers' Quarters Historic District
Marker Location: 1096 Navy Way
In 1895, the City of Charleston purchased lands formerly part of the Retreat and Turnbull Plantations. The City commissioned the Olmsted Brothers of Massachusetts to design a public recreational park, named Chicora Park after a local Indian tribe.
When the Navy purchased the property in 1901, it retained many of the natural features of Chicora Park. In accordance with naval tradition, the Navy built the highest ranking officer's quarters, Quarters A, on the most desirable site: the landscaped rise near the golf course that took advantage of the river breezes. The lower ranking officers' quarters were sited on marshy lands to the south.Source: National Register of Historic Places nomination; Charleston Navy Yard Officers' Quarters Historic District