Celebrating 250 Years of Excellence – Norfolk Naval Shipyard – November 1, 1767 – November 1, 2017
Our mission at Norfolk Naval Shipyard is to fix ships. We repair, overhaul and refuel the most technologically advanced warships in the world: the ships and submarines of the United States Navy.
The Norfolk Naval Shipyard is located on the southern branch of the Elizabeth River in Portsmouth, Virginia. It is comprised of more than eight hundred acres, five dry docks, four miles of waterfront, nineteen miles of railroad tracks, and four hundred cranes.
This year, NNSY celebrates 250 years of rich history, which began in 1767 when Gosport Shipyard opened its gates. Pre-dating our country and the U.S. Navy, the shipyard has flown under four flags: British, Virginia, Confederate States of America and United States of America.
The first dry dock in America opened at NNSY in 1833 and is still operational today. It is also a national landmark.
USS Texas, the Navy’s first battleship, and USS Langley, the first aircraft carrier, were both built here.
USS Skate was the first nuclear-powered submarine to undergo a major overhaul and refueling at NNSY in 1965.
During our long history, NNSY has built more than 110 ships with the last one, the USS Bulwark, sliding down the building ways in 1953.
The shipyard helped protect our nation’s freedom through 11 major wars, put an end to piracy, sent the Great White Fleet around the world, and opened Japan to the West.
During World War II, employment surged to nearly 43,000 and in 1945 the shipyard’s name was officially changed to Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
The shipyard has always symbolized America’s strength. Those who are found inside its gates, both past and present, encompass its heritage and its future and serve their country with honor and pride. The shipyard has an important past and a vital future.
We are Norfolk Naval Shipyard.
We are America’s Shipyard.
The Beginning of a 250 Year Legacy
On November 1, 1767 Andrew Sprowle, a merchant and ship owner,
established the Gosport Shipyard on the western shore of the Elizabeth
River under the British flag. The shipyard developed and prospered as both
a naval and merchant shipyard. When the American Revolution began in 1775,
Sprowle chose to remain loyal to the Crown and fled the area aboard the
Royal Governor's flagship. All his properties were confiscated by the
Colony of Virginia. While being operated by Virginia, in 1779, the shipyard
was burned by the British.
This former colonial shipyard became the Navy's nucleus in the Hampton
Roads area where the largest naval base in the world has developed. The
Norfolk Naval Shipyard is the
U.S. Navy's oldest
and actually predates the United States Navy Department by 31
years. The largest shipyard on the East Coast, it was knows for most of the
first century as "Gosport Naval Shipyard." It was renamed "Norfolk" in 1862
after the largest city in the area. It has never borne the name of its home
city of Portsmouth.
Since its creation 250 years ago, the Norfolk Naval Shipyard has
assisted the nation in winning nine major wars, putting an end to piracy,
sending the Great White Fleet around the world, scientifically exploring
the Pacific, and opening Japan to American trade.
Built here in 1794-99 was the U.S. frigate USS CHESAPEAKE, a
sister ship of the USS CONSTITUTION and one of the first six ships to be
built for the U.S. Navy after the Revolution. One hundred more ships slid
down the ways here before the yard completed its last ship, a wooden
minesweeper, in 1953.
The first dry dock in the western hemisphere opened here on June 17,
1833 by hosting the 74-gun ship-of-the-line USS DELAWARE. Dry Dock 1, now a
national historic landmark, is still in use.
It was in this yard that the partly burned steam frigate USS MERRIMACK
was converted by the Confederates into the CSS VIRGINIA. In March 1862,
worldwide attention focused on the battles between the VIRGINIA and the
wooden Union ships USS CONGRESS and USS CUMBERLAND and the federal ironclad
USS MONITOR. The battles in Hampton Roads spurred changes in naval
technology around the world.
, first U.S. naval battleship to be commissioned, was
built here in 1889-92 as was
, the first modern cruiser completely built by the
Flying from the
built on a ship, by the Norfolk Naval Shipyard, Eugene B.
Ely took off from USS BIRMINGHAM (CS-2) in Hampton Roads on November 14,
1910. Scheduled to land at NNSY, he touched down instead in Norfolk.
The first aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy's history, the
, was converted here between 1919 and 1922 from the
The yard's employment peak of nearly 43,000 workers was reached during
World War II when the yard built nearly 30 major vessels and repaired 6,850
U.S. and Allied ships. It also built 20 tank landing ships and 50 medium
During the three years of the Korean War, the shipyard completed work on
more than 1,250 naval vessels and built two wooden minesweepers.
The shipyard attained nuclear technology capability in the early part of
became the first modern submarine to undergo a
major overhaul here.
Shipyarders here have built a tradition of professional leadership
through hard work and technological innovation. As sailing ships yielded to
steam-powered ironclads, they learned new skills. From the early
experiments with Polaris missiles to the latest installation of complex
weapons systems, shipyarders have come up with productive ways to get their
jobs done. That is why today Norfolk Naval Shipyard's ability to repair and
overhaul ships with speed and efficiency has earned it numerous awards and
the reputation of being the nation's number one shipyard.