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NNSY 250 Year Anniversary

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 shipyard 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.

Map of NNSY

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.

CSS Virginia

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.

USS TEXAS , first U.S. naval battleship to be commissioned, was built here in 1889-92 as was USS RALEIGH , the first modern cruiser completely built by the government.

Flying from the first flight deck 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 USS LANGLEY , was converted here between 1919 and 1922 from the collier USS JUPITER .

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 landing craft.

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 1965 when USS SKATE (SSN-578) 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.