I am now in New York City for the third day and the step counter of my smartwatch tells me that we´ve walked already 65 kilometers. New York is a huge place and full of interesting places to see. One of which is the Brooklyn Navy Yard which was a must-see on my list. As its name suggests, the yard is situated in Brooklyn right between Williamsburg and Manhattan Bridge. We took the J-train to Williamsburg and decided to walk, which is an odd thing to do in America, I know, but I love to see things by walking.

Walking around the perimiters

The area of the Brooklyn Navy Yard is huge. By any means, it´s really huge: 91 hectares of area covered, it took us nearly one full hour to walk its perimeters to reach the small museum which I wanted to see. The yard itself ceased to exists in its old form in the 1960ies but is still an active industrial area full of small and medium businesses, of which the GMD shipyard is still in ship repair business, the rest are start-ups of various types.

The Brooklyn Navy Yard museum

The rich history of the Brooklyn Navy Shipyard started back in 1801. The area itself had been in use for 200 years prior to that when a Dutch guy bought the lands of the Wallabout Bay and started farming here. It is interesting to note that this area was also used as a mooring ground for prison hulks during the Revolution. Shipbuilding really took off under Thomas Jefferson when the yard serviced the American Navy. Checking the internet I found out that there was a small museum, called “Building 92” and so we headed towards it.

The small museum: “Building 92”

The museum is located at the Southern perimeter of the Navy Yard, admission is free. Adjoining to the freshly renovated, modern house is the building which housed the Commander of the yard. The museum tells the story of the shipyard with an emphasis on the history, the people who worked here and the new life of it after the decline and re-purpose to become a playground for new businesses.

Free entry for 3 stories of museum

The museum extends over three stories but it is really small. I was a bit disappointed I must say because the rich history of this place is worth a much bigger presentation. I guess it´s a lack of funding and thus one must be grateful to at the least getting the chance to have this exhibition. I hope that in the future the guys running that place receive much more feedback and demand so that more money is allocated to expand the museum. Because – history has been forged here.

History made: From New York to the world

The yard put out some of the big, big names of American shipping. I was astonished to find so many well known ships being built here, such as the steam frigate FULTON or the very famous Monitor-class battleship, the MONITOR. This ship fought against the VIRGINIA in the fateful first modern battleship engagement and was the herald of a new era.

Quite impressive ship models

After the Civil War the shipyard put out many boats, most for the American Navy, of all sizes and classes. More and more people found a job here, the area was increased ever since. Torpedo boats, frigates, battleships: You name it. New York City became one of the big names in military shipbuilding. One exhibit that the museum shows, documenting that past, is a heavy cannon.

Rich maritime (and military) history

During all the wars fought by the American navy, ships and boats had been built here. The fateful name USS ARIZONA may stand out. The World War 1 battleship was launched in 1915 along with many sister ships of her class, finally sunk during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. A relic brought up from the site is shown in the small museum as well.

One of the big names: USS ARIZONA

More and more and bigger ships had been built during the Second World War where employment reached its peak: More than 70.000 people found a steady income working for the Brooklyn Navy Yard which by then had specialized in battleships and aircraft carriers. The IOWA and MISSOURI had been the biggest American battleships ever made, New York steel!

Is it worth a visit?

The small museum tries to tell this awesome rich story but doing the research for this article and my visit, the Wikipedia-page turned out to be the better resource. The museum is simply too small facing the huge amount of historical data, stories and facts. There is also no chance to walk outside and at least have a little tour under the sky, maybe to and around one of the docks and building sites of those famous ships as the area is still in heavy use by a multitude of businesses.

A huge place, indeed!

Nevertheless, it was an interesting trip to the Brooklyn Navy Yard and I´ve learned many things visiting that place. Seeing that apparently a group of enthusiasts and potent financiers are investing in providing the public with this museum is a good thing. And I say it again, I hope that many more visitors will come so that there is more demand and a reason to further invest in scaling up the museum so that it can convey the rich and interesting history of this site.