The nation's first naval yard and first home port began development in 1799 and eventually became the center for naval operations during a critical period of expanding nationalism in the early 19th century. From about 1850 onward, the Navy Yard was the major site for U.S. naval gun manufacture, and it became the center of a nationwide naval weapons production system during World Wars I and II. It saw the development of important ordnance technology, including the manufacture of the largest-caliber naval guns ever produced in America. Ultimately, the Navy Yard grew to a massive complex of industrial buildings and supply yards with much heavy equipment—the city’s largest concentration of industrial architecture.
At the end of the 19th century, the Navy Yard was expanded westward to accommodate more gun and ordnance manufacturel. Major naval construction campaigns led to spurts of growth in the Navy Yard, including the building of Theodore Roosevelt's "Great White Fleet" after the Spanish-American War and the arms race that culminated in World War I. Expansion continued during World War II, when the Yard played a major role as the command center for naval ordnance production. The Navy Yard was renamed the U.S. Naval Gun Factory in 1945; production stopped in 1962.
The Navy Yard Historic District includes about 40 contributing buildings dating from about 1799 to 1920, as well as sites with archaeological potential.
DC Inventory: November 8, 1964 (Joint Committee on Landmarks) and February 28, 2008 (Boundary Increase)
National Register: June 19, 1973 (Boundary Increase I: January 3, 2008 and Boundary Increase II: June 29, 2023)
National Historic Landmark: May 11, 1976