Origins of the Base
During the 1898 Spanish-American War, the Navy recognized that over half of the American sailors in that war had come from the Midwest. Congressman Foss of Illinois suggested that in the future, it might be advisable to train recruits from a Midwest facility. The Naval Appropriation Act of July 1, 1902 included a recommendation to Congress of a suitable site for a 1,500 capacity Naval Training Station to be located on the Great Lakes. Lake Bluff, Illinois with its excellent rail connections, harbor possibilities, picturesque setting, and southern lake location was the favored site. With the gift of the land to the Government by local citizens through private fund-raising, President Theodore Roosevelt announced that he had approved the board's report and authorized establishment of the station at Lake Bluff on November 24, 1904.
Navy Captain Albert Ross, USN, was chosen to be the first Commandant of the Naval Station, and Civil Engineer Corps Captain George A. McKay, USN, was appointed as engineer for the original construction of the Great Lakes Naval Training station. 1905 to 1911 were spent designing and building the station at Great Lakes. Jarvis Hunt, a Prominent Chicago architect, was commissioned for the project. The natural contours of the site were used to divide the station into four areas: the Main Training camp, Receiving Camp, Naval Hospital, and Marine Barracks/Guard House. Great Lakes Naval Training Station was officially dedicated on October 28, 1911, with President William Howard Taft and Secretary of the Navy George Von. L. Mayer in attendance for the graduation of the first company of recruits.