Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Norfolk Naval Shipyard
The Norfolk Naval Shipyard, often called the Norfolk Navy Yard, is a U.S. Navy facility in Portsmouth, Virginia, for building, remodeling, and repairing the Navy's ships. It is located on the Elizabeth River just a short distance upriver from its mouth at Hampton Roads.
The Gosport Shipyard was founded on November 1, 1767 by Andrew Sprowle on the western shore of the Elizabeth River. This shipyard became a prosperous naval and merchant for the British Crown. In 1775, at the beginning of the American Revolution, Sprowle stayed loyal to the Crown and fled Virginia, which confiscated all of his properties, including the shipyard. In 1779 while Virginia was operating the shipyard, it was burnt by the British troops.
In 1794, Congress passed "An Act to Provide a Naval Armament," allowing the Federal Government to lease the Gosport Shipyard from Virginia. In 1799 the keel of USS Chesapeake, a sister ship to Constitution, was laid, making her the first ship built in Gosport for the U.S. Navy.
The federal government purchased the shipyard from Virginia in 1801 for $12,000. This tract of land measured 16 acres (65,000 m²) which now make up the northeastern corner of the current shipyard. In 1827, construction began on of one of the first two dry docks in the United States. Additional land on the eastern side of the Elizabeth River was purchased in 1845.
In 1861, Virginia joined the Confederate States of America. Fearing that the Confederacy would take control of the facility, the shipyard commander ordered the burning of the shipyard. The Confederate forces did in fact take over the shipyard. There, the Confederate ironclad CSS Virginia was rebuilt using the burned-out hulk of USS Merrimack. Virginia engaged the Union ironclad USS Monitor in the famous Battle of Hampton Roads during the Union blockade of Hampton Roads. The Confederates burned the shipyard again when they left in May of 1862. Following its recapture by the Union, the name of the shipyard was changed to Norfolk, after the largest city in the area even though the shipyard was actually located in Portsmouth.
No major expansion occurred at the facility until World War I when it was expanded to accommodate 11,000 employees and their families. The shipyard was again expanded in World War II, doubling its physical size, and greatly expanding its productive capacity. During its peak, from 1940 to 1945, 43,000 personnel were employed and 6,850 vessels were built.
After World War II, the shipyard shifted from being a ship construction facility to an overhaul and repair facility. Its last two ships, the USS Bold and her sister ship, the Bulwark , wooden minesweepers, were christened on March 28, 1953 during the Korean War.
Currently, the shipyard is composed of several noncontiguous areas totaling 1,275 acres (5.2 km²). Norfolk Naval Shipyard provides repair and modernization services for every type of ship that the U.S. Navy has in service, which includes amphibious vessels, submarines, guided missile cruisers, and supercarriers. The Norfolk yard is one of the few facilities on the east coast capable of dry docking nuclear aircraft carriers. Another facility capable of drydocking such carriers is Newport News Shipbuilding, located on the other side of Hampton Roads in Newport News, which is the only U.S. shipyard that currently builds and refuels nuclear aircraft carriers.
- USS Chesapeake - sister ship to the USS Constitution, fought in the War of 1812.
- USS Delaware - first ship to be dry docked in the Western Hemisphere.
- CSS Virginia - First Confederate ironclad warship, rebuilt from USS Merrimack; participant in Battle of Hampton Roads against USS Monitor
- USS Texas - First U.S. naval battleship to be commissioned.
- USS Raleigh - First modern cruiser completely built by the U.S. government.
- USS Langley - First U.S. aircraft carrier; converted from USS Jupiter.
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