The Philadelphia Naval Shipyard served as a preeminent ship building facility well before the founding of our nation. Home to the first government-owned Navy yard in the United States, it became operational in the late 1700s. A decade later, Congress purchased 10 acres in the southernmost point of the city and the formal U.S. Navy presence was established — a presence that would serve as the foundation for the world’s most powerful sea-bearing force.
The Philadelphia Navy Yard’s activities mirrored the ebb and flow of our nation’s naval wartime engagements. The first warship built in the yard — the USS Franklin — was in response to the War of 1812. Several decades later, the Civil War led to a 400 percent increase in the yard’s workforce. After the Civil War, shipbuilding waned for decades. In World War I, the transport Henderson was launched in 1917 — the first Navy yard vessel built from the keel up. It was with World War II, however, when the golden age of the ship yard came to be. More than 50 ships were built, and 1,281 more were converted or overhauled through the mid-1940s. The workforce skyrocketed from 4,500 to some 70,000 coming through the gates each day. This was the high-water mark for employment at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
From the 1950s forward, the Navy’s footprint and associated ship building projects dwindled with each passing year. As other East Coast Navy installations expanded their missions and programs, the Philadelphia Navy Yard reduced capacity and programs. In response, the Base Realignment and Closure Commission announced plans to close the yard to the dismay of thousands of employees and those who worked here over the decades. In 1996, the Philadelphia Navy Yard was closed. In 2000, the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development acquired 1,000 acres on behalf of the city of Philadelphia. Approximately 200 acres were retained by the Navy, who today still call the Philadelphia Navy Yard Annex home.
THE NAVY YARD TODAY
This once defense-centric site has now branched out into a thriving, dynamic hub of progressive commercial innovation mixed among several Navy and Department of Defense activities. On behalf of PAID, Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp., Philadelphia’s public-private economic development corporation, oversees the master development of The Navy Yard campus. Today, GlaxoSmithKline and Urban Outfitters Inc. reside on the same campus as the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division, the Navy’s primary machinery engineering organization. Heralded as the hallmark process of transitioning a military industrial complex to commercial activities, this 1,200-acre site is home to a diverse mix of office, industrial, manufacturing, research and development, and defense activities on an open campus.
NAVY ORGANIZATIONS AT PNYA TODAY
NAVAL SUPPORT ACTIVITY PNYA: Coordinates and provides common base support services to fleet units, tenant activities, hosted commands and other naval activities as directed by Commander, Navy Region Mid-Atlantic.
NAVAL SURFACE WARFARE CENTER, PHILADELPHIA DIVISION: Serves as the Navy’s principal test and evaluation center and in-service engineering agent for hull, mechanical and electrical ship systems and equipment and is the research and development center for all naval machinery.
THE NAVAL FOUNDRY AND PROPELLER CENTER, DETACHMENT PHILADELHIA: The largest public-owned foundry and propeller shop in the nation. It provides the Navy marketing, designing, engineering, manufacturing and repair of propellers for all types of surface and sub-surface craft of the U.S. Navy and its customers.
NAVFAC MID-ATLANTIC, PWD PENNSYLVANIA: Provides transportation services, maintenance and repair of facilities, roads and utilities, and construction management and oversight for Navy installations within Pennsylvania.
NAVAL CRIMINAL INVESTIGATIVE SERVICE: Investigates crimes committed on Navy property and provides counter-intelligence services.
NAVAL INACTIVE SHIP MAINTENANCE FACILITY: Inactivates, stores, removes parts and components from inactive ships for reutilization and prepares for disposal Navy non-nuclear ships assigned.
NAVAL MEDICAL CLINIC: Provides basic medical aid to installation commands and provides occupational health and OSHA-mandated screening services to those activities.
THE BASE REALIGNMENT AND CLOSURE PROGRAM MANAGEMENT OFFICE: Oversees all facets of the implementation — budgeting, realignment, environment cleanup, caretaker and conveyance — of the Navy BRAC Program with its headquarters and west regional office in San Diego and an east office in Philadelphia.