Portsmouth Naval Shipyard


Would it surprise you to know that the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is on Seavey Island in Kittery Maine?

The Shipyard has long been the prize in a tug-of-war between New Hampshire and Maine for who has the right to claim her, but for now the courts have come down on the side of Maine.

I don't do this often on my site, but I found that the Wikipedia article that was written about the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard was so well done, succinct and concise, that it would be silly to reinvent the wheel.

This is the Wikipedia article with extremely minor changes from yours truly:

Established on June 12, 1800 during the administration of President John Adams, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard is the oldest continuously-operating shipyard in the United States Navy.

It is situated on a cluster of conjoined islands called Seavey Island in the Piscataqua River, whose swift tidal current prevents ice from blocking navigation to the Atlantic Ocean.

The area has a long tradition of shipbuilding. Since colonial settlement, New Hampshire and Maine forests provided lumber for wooden boat construction. Commissioned here in 1690, the Falkland is considered the first British warship built in the Thirteen Colonies.

The Royal Navy reserved the tallest and straightest Eastern White Pine trees for masts, emblazing the bark with a crown symbol.

During the Revolution, the Raleigh was built in 1776 on Badger's Island in Kittery, and would be the first vessel to fly an American flag into battle. Other warships followed, including the Ranger launched in 1777. Commanded by Captain John Paul Jones, it would be the first U. S. Navy vessel to receive an official salute at sea from a foreign power.

portsmouth-naval-shipyardWhen Secretary of the Navy Benjamin Stoddert decided to build the first federal shipyard, he located it where a proven workforce had proximity to abundant raw materials—Fernald's Island, for which the government paid $5,500. To protect the new installation, old Fort William and Mary at the mouth of Portsmouth Harbor was rebuilt and renamed Fort Constitution.

Commodore Isaac Hull was the first naval officer to command the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard, taking charge in 1800 until 1802, and again in 1812 during the War of 1812. The yard's first production was the 74-gun ship of the line Washington, supervised by local master shipbuilder William Badger and launched in 1814. Barracks were built in 1820, with Marine barracks added in 1827. A hospital was established in 1834.

Architect Alexander Parris would be appointed chief engineer for the base. In 1838, the Franklin Shiphouse was completed -- 240 feet (73 m) long, 131 feet (40 m) wide and measuring 72 feet (22 m) from floor to center of its ridgepole. It carried 130 tons of slate on a gambrel roof. It was lengthened in 1854 to accommodate the Franklin (from which it took its name), the largest wooden warship built at the yard, and requiring a decade to finish.

Considered one of the largest shiphouses in the country, the structure burned at 5:00 a.m. on 10 March 1936. Perhaps the most famous vessel ever overhauled at the yard was the Constitution, also called "Old Ironsides," in 1855.

Treaty Building in 1912

Prisoners of war from the Spanish-American War were encamped in 1898 on the grounds of the base. In 1905, construction began on the Portsmouth Naval Prison, a military prison dubbed "The Castle" because of its resemblance to a crenellated castle. It was the principal prison for the Navy and Marine Corps, as well as housing for many German U-Boat crews after capture, until it closed in 1974.

Also in 1905, the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard hosted the Treaty of Portsmouth which ended the Russo-Japanese War. For arranging the peace conference, President Theodore Roosevelt would win the 1906 Nobel Peace Prize. Delegates met in the General Stores Building, now the Administration Building (called Building 86).

In 2005, a summer-long series of events marked the 100th anniversary of the signing of the treaty, including a visit by a Navy destroyer, a parade, and a re-enactment of the arrival of diplomats from the two nations.

Submarines at the Shipyard

During World War I, the shipyard began constructing submarines, with the L-8 being the first ever built by a U. S. navy yard.

Meanwhile, the base continued to overhaul and repair surface vessels. Consequently, the workforce grew to nearly 5,000 civilians. It would grow to almost 25,000 civilians in World War II when over 70 submarines were constructed at the yard, with a record of 4 launched in a single day.

When the war ended, the shipyard became the Navy's center for submarine design and development. In 1953, the Albacore would revolutionize submarine design around the world with its teardrop hull and round cross-section. It is now a museum and tourist attraction in Portsmouth.

Swordfish, the first nuclear-powered submarine built at the base, was launched in 1957. The last submarine built here was the Sand Lance, launched in 1969. Today the shipyard provides overhaul, refueling and modernization work.


Official website of The Portsmouth Naval Shipyard


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