Aerial view, Washington Navy Yard - Washington DC
Many improvements were made to the U.S Navy Yard and Naval Ammunition Depot (now called the Washington Navy Yard) throughout the New Deal, from 1934 to 1941.
In 1933, the Washington Post reported that $325,000 had been allotted by the Public Works Administration (PWA) to improvements at the Navy Yard; the funds were dispensed in 1934 for the modernization of the heating plant. A 1937 Navy report provides specifics on that work: “new concrete foundations, structural steel boiler supports, air-cooled boiler settings, stoker-fired furnaces, smoke breeching, coal chutes, forced-draft fans, operating platforms and walkways, boiler plant accessories, piping and electric wiring; and an extension to the ash-slushing system… alterations to existing brick chimneys.” (Navy 1937b, p 45).
Around the same time, the PWA allotted $861,000 for flood damage repairs to several naval facilities in the District, including damage repairs to the Navy Yard’s “electric motors and electric distribution system.” (Navy 1937b, pp. 70-71).
The Works Progress Administration (WPA) separately carried out extensive improvements to the Navy Yard. WPA record cards at the National Archives indicate the relief crews worked there circa 1936 on projects that included extension of the Ninth St. Garage (pictured) and repair and improvement of several other buildings (WPA record card). In 1937, WPA relief workers performed further improvements that included painting buildings, constructing of storage facilities and railroad tracks, and building a flood wall along the Anacostia River. (Washington Post 1938)
A second 1937 Navy report provides more details:
“The large share of relief work [i.e., using WPA labor] undertaken by the Navy in the District was undertaken at the Washington Navy Yard. Although funds were employed largely in the repair of existing structures, they were also used for limited new construction. The principal new building was a large extension to the garage and, in addition, a lunch room for civilian employees was constructed. A swimming pool, bathhouse, and temporary barracks were constructed for the benefit of the enlisted personnel of the yard. The laboratory for the development of ammunition is now under construction.” (Navy 1937a, p. 46) In fact, the work was pretty extensive, by the Navy’s own reckoning.
Further work was done by the WPA in 1940-41 at the “U.S. Navy Yard Reservation,” which is most likely the same Navy Yard and Ammunition Depot. Plans were to “Erect transportation and laundry buildings, construct additions to exterior, install plumbing, heating and electrical facilities ….” (WPA record card). In 1940, the Washington Post reported “a group of 685 men working on an additional ammunition depot [and] storage facilities” (Post, July 11) . In 1941, the Washington Post reported that the WPA was slated to again work on the site to construct “…new buildings, extended sewer facilities, protective fences and new streets” (Post, August 3).
National Archives, Record Group 69, “Microfilmed Index to WPA Projects."
“$550,000 set for buildings, district repair,” Washington Post, August 30, 1933, p. 22
U.S. Navy, Public Works of the Navy, Bulletin No. 38, May 1937, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937a, p. 46 (Hathitrust website, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b3089224&view=1up&seq=5, accessed May 29, 2021).
U.S. Navy, Public Works of the Navy, Bulletin No. 39, June 1937, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1937b, pp. 45 and 70-71 (Hathitrust website, https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uc1.b3089224&view=1up&seq=5, accessed May 29, 2021).
“Dike will protect Federal Triangle,” Washington Post, January 16, 1938, p. 11
“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 - wpatoday.org on June 17, 2013.
Additional contributions by Richard A Walker.
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