Philadelphia Naval Shipyard

The Navy Yard, Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Reserve Fleet in Philadelphia in 1955
Type Shipyard
Site information
Controlled by United States Navy
Site history
Built 1917 (League Island Facility)
In use 1801–1995
Philadelphia Naval Shipyard Historic District
Location S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Coordinates 39°53′28″N 75°10′43″W / 39.89111°N 75.17861°W / 39.89111; -75.17861Coordinates: 39°53′28″N 75°10′43″W / 39.89111°N 75.17861°W / 39.89111; -75.17861
Area 1,200 acres (490 ha)
Built 1876
Architect Robert E. Peary; Karcher & Smith
Architectural style Modern Movement, Late Victorian
NRHP Reference # 99001579[1]
Added to NRHP December 22, 1999
Commandant's Quarters
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Built 1874
Architect US Department of the Navy
Architectural style Italian Villa
NRHP Reference # 76001661[1]
Added to NRHP 03 June 1976

The Navy Yard, formerly known as the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Philadelphia Naval Business Center, was an important naval shipyard of the United States for almost two centuries.[2] It is now a large industrial park that includes a commercial shipyard, Aker Philadelphia Shipyard.

Philadelphia's original navy yard, begun in 1776 on Front Street and Federal Street in what is now the Pennsport section of the city, was the first naval shipyard of the United States. The new, much larger yard grew up around facilities begun in 1871 on League Island at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.

The United States Navy ended most of its activities there in the 1990s, and in 2000, the city of Philadelphia took over and began to redevelop the land. The Navy still has a Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility and a few engineering activities at the site.


The "League Island Crane" with the destroyer USS Lamson in the foreground.

The yard has its origins in a shipyard on Philadelphia's Front Street on the Delaware River that was founded in 1776 and became an official United States Navy site in 1801. From 1812 till 1865 it was a big production center. The first ship which was launched to the water was vessel Franklin. This event watched more than 50000 Philadelphians. The rapid development of other shipbuilding companies pledged Philadelphia to improve production processes. It was the first shipyard in the world which used floating dry docks in the building process to improve an operating time of the ships.[3] After the advent of ironclad warships made the site obsolete, new facilities were built in 1871 on League Island at the confluence of the Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers.

The Naval Aircraft Factory was established at the League Island site in 1917. Just after World War I, a 350-ton capacity hammerhead crane was ordered for the yard. Manufactured in 1919 by the McMyler-Interstate Company in Bedford, Ohio, the crane was called the League Island Crane by its builder. Weighing 3,500 tons, the crane was shipped to the yard in sections, and it was the world's largest crane at the time.[4] The "League Island Crane" was for many years the Navy's largest crane.

Mustin Field opened at the Naval Aircraft Factory in 1926 and operated until 1963.

The shipyard's greatest period came in World War II, when the yard employed 40,000 people who built 53 ships and repaired 574. During this period, the yard built the famed battleship New Jersey and its 45,000-ton sister ship, Wisconsin. In the Naval Laboratory Philip Abelson developed the liquid thermal diffusion technique for separating U-235 for the Manhattan Project.

After the war, the workforce dropped to 12,000, and in the 1960s, new ships began to be contracted out to private companies. The yard built its last new ship, the command ship Blue Ridge, in 1970.

Guns from battleships being scrapped in Philadelphia Navy Yard in December 1923. USS South Carolina being dismantled in the background.

The yard's closure was originally recommended in 1991 by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission, as a result of foreign competition and reduced needs due to the end of the Cold War. The planned closing was unsuccessfully litigated to the US Supreme Court in Dalton v. Specter. Although local politicians tried to keep the yard open, it finally closed in 1995 with a loss of 7,000 jobs. Senator Arlen Specter charged that the Department of Defense did not disclose the official report on the closing. This resulted in a controversy that led to further legal disputes, to no avail. Since its transfer from the government, the west end of property has been leased to Aker Kværner, a tanker and commercial shipbuilding firm.

In the 1990s, the U.S. Navy reduced its activities there, and ended most of them on September 30, 1995, by decision of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC).

Post-naval use

The City of Philadelphia became the landlord and owner of The Navy Yard in March 2000, when the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development (PAID) took title to roughly 1,000 acres from The Navy. Currently, the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC) manages the planning, operation, and development of The Navy Yard on behalf of PAID and the City of Philadelphia. A comprehensive master plan was developed in 2004 to turn the former industrial yard to a mixed-use campus.

As of 2010, navy activities there include Naval Support Activity Philadelphia, the Naval Surface Warfare Center Ship Systems Engineering Station, Naval Facilities Engineering Command Mid-Atlantic Public Works Department Pennsylvania (NAVFAC MIDLANT PWD PA) and the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility (NISMF), which stores decommissioned and mothballed warships and auxiliary naval vessels.

The Navy Yard is home to 120 companies with 10,000 employees, as the campus continues to expand and develop. Clothing manufacturer Urban Outfitters consolidated its Philadelphia headquarters on the site, while Tasty Baking Company, makers of Tastykakes, has moved their bakery to the 26th Street side of The Yard. Other companies there include Rittenhouse Ventures, Iroko Pharmaceuticals, Aker Philadelphia Shipyard, Rhoads Industries, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation (PIDC), Energy Efficient Buildings Hub (EEB Hub),, and Mark Group, Inc.

In January 2013, company announced about increasing the number of apartments for employees (near 1,000) and infrastructure development. This is made possible by the public financing of shipyards and investments of private companies. According to the plan for 2013 the number of employees at the shipyard amount to around 30,000 people.[5]

In April 2013, pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline opened a 205,000-square-foot building in The Navy Yard's Corporate Center.[6]

The memorial chapel to the Four Chaplains also sits on the grounds.[7]

The Athletic Base Ball Club of Philadelphia hosts the annual Philadelphia Base Ball Fair & Exhibition on the Navy Yard Marine Parade Grounds.

Notable ships

Aerial view NAMC Philadelphia, Mustin Field, and the shipyard in the mid-1940s

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.


  1. 1 2 National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service.
  3. "The Navy Yard Philadelphia". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  4. "McMyler-Interstate Co.." Bedford Historical Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2010. <>.
  5. "Business booms at old naval shipyard in Philadelphia". Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  6. "The Navy Yard Welcomes: GlaxoSmithKline". The Navy Yard. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
  7. Grills, Matt (January 20, 2015). "More than a story". American Legion Magazine. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  8. BB-64 was launched and commissioned before BB-63, in spite of a later keel-laying.
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