Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling: Naval Air Station (former) Improvements – Washington DC


The present Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling is the site of the former Anacostia US Naval Air Station and the former Bolling Air Field, both founded in 1918.  Bolling Field was absorbed into the Naval Air Station in the 1940s and a new Bolling Air Force Base constructed just to the south in 1948.  Those facilities were merged again in 2010, and the joint base is currently home to several functions, including a naval facility, a large heliport and a Secret Service base.  

From 1933 to 1942, New Deal agencies were busy at the two older facilities, making improvements of various kinds.  Much of the work concerned the improvement of the Anacostia Naval Air Station, in the northern portion of the present joint base.

In 1933-34, the Civil Works Administration (CWA) repaired the landing beach, painted buildings, and constructed squash courts at the Naval Air base.

Then, after the floods of 1936, the Army Corps of Engineers was brought in to aid with flood control: “At the Naval Air Station, Anacostia, D.C., a large amount of repair and improvement work was carried on during the fiscal year 1936. Owing to the high water in the Potomac in the spring of 1936, and the resulting damage, it became necessary to make arrangements to prevent a recurrence of that damage. Under the direction of the United States Army Engineers, the area was partially protected by the construction of a levee along the waterfront. In order to make the closure complete without interfering with the operation of seaplanes at the station, arrangements are now being completed for portable units to make the entire area immune from the results of floodwaters.”

In 1940-41, it was the Works Progress Administration’s turn.  The WPA did a broad swath of improvements, according to project cards at the National Archives listing the kinds of tasks approved.  While not all this work can be confirmed, much of it was certainly completed, judging from reports in the Washington Post that stated the works had cost $663,000.  They included improvements to runways and roads, water and electric systems, buildings and roads, and much more.

Here are the detailed descriptions of work on WPA cards:

“Construct and improve buildings and facilities, and improve grounds at the U.S. Naval Air Station…includes constructing buildings and parking areas, installing fire and crash alarm system, resurfacing roads, renewing steam lines, razing and rehabilitating buildings, draining and paving, and appurtenant and incidental work”

“Improve and enlarge facilities at the U.S. Naval Air Station, including extending runways, taxi-lanes, warm-up platforms, and service roads; resurfacing and improving runways and warm-up platform; filling, grading, seeding, sodding, and landscaping flying field; extending field drainage and field lighting facilities; enlarging drainage pumping facilities; fencing; painting; appurtenant and incidental work; construct roads with curbs, catch basins, culverts, and culvert outlets; widen and resurface existing roads; grade; fill; and perform appurtenant and incidental work….”

“Make improvements at the U.S. Naval Air Station.  Work includes increasing size of warming-up platform; excavating; placing and grading fill; breaking pavement; improving incinerator for disposal of refuse; removing old steam pipe and replacing with new pipe; and performing incidental and appurtenant work.”

“Enlarge and improve existing facilities at the Anacostia Naval Air Station. Work includes installing drainage lines, electric cables, sprinkler system, gates, valves, drainage pump, fire hydrants, starting equipment, and transformers; extending roads and warming-up platform; painting hangars; relocating radio towers; rehabilitating heating plant and buildings; paving and grading; and performing appurtenant and incidental work.”


Source notes

“1,000,000 paid district CWA workers,” The Washington Post, January 4, 1934, p. 13.

National Archives, Record Group 69, WPA Microfilm, District of Columbia, Box 969.

U.S. Navy, Public Works of the Navy, Bulletin No. 38, May 1937, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937, p. 46 (Hathitrust, accessed May 29, 2021).

“Army of 3,690 from WPA starts strengthening Capital defenses,” Washington Post, July 11, 1940, p. 5

“Navy Yard here to be extended,” Washington Post, August 3, 1941, p. 6


Project originally submitted by Brent McKee on May 27, 2013.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.

We welcome contributions of additional information on any New Deal project site.


Location Info

Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling
Washington, DC 20032

Coordinates: 38.8581, -77.0120

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