- The Washington Times - Monday, September 16, 2013

The Washington Navy Yard, a 41-acre compound of buildings on the Anacostia River in Southeast Washington and the scene of Monday’s shooting rampage, has a history dating back to the beginnings of the 19th century.

As the Navy’s oldest shore command, it was used as a shipbuilding site, served in the 20th century as an ordnance plant, and then was turned into office buildings, including Building 197, the site of Monday’s mass shooting.

The yard, six blocks east of Nationals Park and about 1 1/2 miles south of the U.S. Capitol, is home to the chief of naval operations and the headquarters for several Navy commands, including Naval Sea Systems Command, which is responsible for procurement and maintenance of the Navy’s fleet of ships and submarines.

That command is located in Building 197, where about 3,000 people work.

The National Museum of the U.S. Navy and the Naval History and Heritage Command are also on base as is Leutze Park, which contains 26 cannons from different time periods and manufactured by different countries.

Today the yard is probably best known as the home to the squad of investigators on CBS’ hit TV show “NCIS” — and the real yard does indeed house the Naval Criminal Investigative Service headquarters.

It is also the location for courts-martial, or military trials, for the Washington area, including Annapolis.

First used as a major shipbuilding plant, the yard constructed a number of Navy vessels and retrofitted the famed ship Constitution in 1812.

During the War of 1812, the base’s commodore ordered the facility set on fire to prevent its capture after seeing the smoke from the Capitol, which the British had lit afire.

After the war, the base was no longer useful as a shipbuilding facility since the shallow Anacostia River could not accommodate larger ships.

The base was then designated as the manufacturing plant for all Navy ordnance, a position it held through World War II, when it was the largest naval ordnance plant in the world.

In the 1960s, work began to convert the old factory buildings into offices.

In addition to serving as an administrative hub, ceremonial functions, including change of command ceremonies for Navy leaders, also occur on base in the Sail Loft, a large event space built in 1901.

The Forrest Sherman class destroyer Barry is the only ship moored at the Navy Yard as part of the museum, which tourists can visit.

• Jacqueline Klimas can be reached at jklimas@washingtontimes.com.

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