What is the Washington Navy Yard, anyway?

The site of a deadly mass shooting Monday has a long history

Washington Navy Yard
(Image credit: (<a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Washington_Navy_Yard_aerial_view_1985.jpg" target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>))

Several people were killed Monday in a mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C., a 65-acre lot that has gone through several incarnations in its two-plus centuries of existence. It is now home to both civilian and military facilities.

[For the latest updates on Monday's shooting, you can follow our live coverage here.]

Established in 1799, the Washington Navy Yard is the oldest military establishment in the country. Seated on the shore of the Anacostia River, it originally served as the Navy's primary shipbuilding facility, churning out 22 vessels in its early years.

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Given its proximity to the federal government, the Navy Yard once functioned as a strategic defense post, too.

During the War of 1812, when British troops marched on and set fire to Washington, the Navy preemptively burned parts of the Navy Yard to prevent munitions and equipment from falling into enemy hands. President Lincoln visited the site several times during the Civil War, and John Wilkes Booth's body was brought to a ship moored there for examination.

In the latter half of the 19th century, the Navy Yard moved on from shipbuilding to producing munitions and ordnance (military weapons and equipment). By World War II, it had become the largest production site for naval ordnance in the world.

Today, much of the Navy Yard has been converted into offices, both civilian and military. Some 16,000 employees work in the area's 2.2 million square feet of office space.

The Navy still operates there, though in a reduced capacity. About 3,000 employees work in the Naval Sea Systems Command, the largest of the Navy's five systems command posts, which designs and builds ships and shipboard weapons systems.

The Navy Yard is also home to the National Museum of the U.S. Navy. And since the 1970s, the chief of Naval Operations — the Navy's top officer — has traditionally lived in the Navy Yard's historic Tingey House.

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