Skip to main content

Navy Yard: storied past, home today to high-ranking personnel

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 1132 GMT (1932 HKT)
  • The U.S. Navy Yard is home to high-level naval personnel
  • Many service members and civilian employees work there
  • Security is tight at the Yard, CNN's Barbara Starr reports

(CNN) -- The Washington Navy Yard is the home to high-level naval personnel and is the workplace for at least 3,000 service members and civilian employees. Located in the heart of Washington, D.C., the premises include a park and many buildings.

Chief of Naval Operations Jonathan Greenert was at his residence at the Yard on Monday and was evacuated, CNN's Barbara Starr said.

She added that in her experience visiting the facility, security is extensive. Everyone must have clearance to be there or valid identification that allows them entry.

But she added that "you could have all the authority in the world to be on the installation" and still plan to do harm without detection by guards.

A police officer runs near the scene of the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, September 16. Authorities said at least 12 people -- and the suspect -- were killed in the shooting. A police officer runs near the scene of the shooting rampage at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday, September 16. Authorities said at least 12 people -- and the suspect -- were killed in the shooting.
Mass shooting at D.C. Navy Yard
Photos: Mass shooting at D.C. Navy Yard Photos: Mass shooting at D.C. Navy Yard

Read more about entering the Yard

Shooting at Washington Navy Yard  Shooting at Washington Navy Yard
Shooting at Washington Navy YardShooting at Washington Navy Yard

The Yard includes the headquarters for the Naval Historical Center and the U.S. Navy Judge Advocate General's Corps, among others. It's the headquarters for the Naval Sea Systems Command, where police said shots were fired Monday.

Capt. Mark Vandroff spoke to reporters, explaining that he and his colleagues remained in a conference room in their building -- 197 -- hunkered down until the scene was safe.

He described the building as the largest of three overseen by the Naval Sea System command, the Navy's organization that procures and maintains ships and submarines. Building 197 houses headquarter staff, legal team, contractors, engineers and buyers of various weapon and defense systems, among others, he said.

Vandroff added that he was very happy that his staff remained calm, though they were scared as they hunkered down in a conference room. "'Cause we knew if we sheltered in place eventually the police would come get us," he said.

What's next for the investigation?
Friend: Shooter was polite, friendly

The Navy Museum at the Yard is open to the public. Leutze Park hosts ceremonies and offers walking tours.

The Yard has a dramatic history, its website says.

A former shipyard and ordnance plant, it's the oldest U.S. onshore installation.

It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973 and designated a National Historic Landmark three years later.

The Yard was created in 1799 by an act of Congress, the Naval History and Heritage Command says. It was envisioned as a shipbuilding and fitting facility on the Anacostia River and over the years has serviced several storied vessels, including the USS Constitution.

During the War of 1812, the Yard burned down and was rebuilt as a weapons manufacturing hub. It has also been the scene of significant advancements in military technology. During the War of 1812, Robert Fulton conducted research and testing on his clockwork torpedo, and in 1822, Commodore John Rodgers built the United States' first marine railway for the overhaul of large vessels at the Yard, according to its site.

The Yard was crucial to the defense of Washington during the Civil War, according to its website. President Abraham Lincoln frequently visited the Yard many times, according to the Yard's site. The body of Lincoln's killer, John Wilkes Booth, was examined and identified on a ship moored at there.

Amid World War I, the Yard made Navy ordnance, including the 14-inch naval railway guns used in France in the war.

In the years after World War II and into the Cold War era, the Yard's military role lessened.

Part of complete coverage on
D.C. Navy Yard shooting
September 25, 2013 -- Updated 1806 GMT (0206 HKT)
Surveillance video shows the Navy Yard shooter arrive and begin his deadly rampage.
September 26, 2013 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
According to the FBI, Aaron Alexis was under "the delusional belief that he was being controlled or influenced by extremely low frequency electromagnetic waves."
Get to know the victims of the Navy Yard shooting through our interactive.
September 19, 2013 -- Updated 1037 GMT (1837 HKT)
Navy Yard gunman Aaron Alexis left a trail of so-called red flags that, in hindsight, seem quite glaring, even if the impetus for this week's deadly rampage remains murky.
September 22, 2013 -- Updated 2042 GMT (0442 HKT)
They were civilians and contractors, just starting their day at a massive military compound that's normally a bastion of safety.
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 1415 GMT (2215 HKT)
The picture emerging of the dead gunman is a study in contrasts, one of a man who practiced languages and meditated, and another of a cold-blooded killer.
September 23, 2013 -- Updated 1410 GMT (2210 HKT)
President Barack Obama said Sunday that the United States "can't accept" last week's killing of 12 people at Washington's Navy Yard as "inevitable."
September 19, 2013 -- Updated 1038 GMT (1838 HKT)
For scientist Benita Bell, memories of an encounter with a stranger last week took on a different light after the shooting.
September 18, 2013 -- Updated 1020 GMT (1820 HKT)
The shooter had a "pattern of misconduct" as a Navy reservist, had sporadic run-ins with the law, and had contacted two Veterans Administration hospitals for apparent psychological issues.
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 1132 GMT (1932 HKT)
The Washington Navy Yard is the home to high-level naval personnel and is the workplace for many junior service members and civilian employees.
September 20, 2013 -- Updated 1647 GMT (0047 HKT)
When Washington's police chief visited wounded officer Scott Williams after the Navy Yard shooting it wasn't a chief visiting a subordinate. It was one cop visiting another cop.
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 1933 GMT (0333 HKT)
Months after apologizing for overeager users fingering innocent people as potential suspects in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, Reddit shut down a section devoted to chasing down the Washington Navy Yard shooter.
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 1148 GMT (1948 HKT)
About 3,000 people work at the Navy Yard, including junior service members and civilian employees. It's supposed to be a secure facility. So what went wrong?
October 24, 2014 -- Updated 2027 GMT (0427 HKT)
Aurora. Sandy Hook. Boston. And now the nation's capital. Another mass tragedy filled with incomprehensible loss, nonstop news coverage and a major question for parents: What do we tell our kids?
September 18, 2013 -- Updated 1138 GMT (1938 HKT)
The White House defended President Barack Obama from criticism he was tone deaf in his reaction to the shootings at Washington Navy Yard.
September 18, 2013 -- Updated 1149 GMT (1949 HKT)
The national trauma inflicted by the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School prompted an emotional and fierce debate on gun control, but the drive for stricter limits fell short in Washington.
September 16, 2013 -- Updated 1923 GMT (0323 HKT)
A Navy commander describes witnessing a man get shot during the Navy Yard shooting. CNN's Rene Marsh has more.
September 17, 2013 -- Updated 0003 GMT (0803 HKT)
A chronicle of the events in the D.C. Navy Yard shooting.
September 16, 2013 -- Updated 2232 GMT (0632 HKT)
A fire alarm went off, as has happened before at the Washington Navy Yard. Terrie Durham wasn't sure if it was anything serious, or a drill.
September 18, 2013 -- Updated 1936 GMT (0336 HKT)
Go inside the story with photos from the scene.