Charlestown Navy Yard - Boston National Historical Park

Audio Available:

OVERVIEW: About this audio-described brochure

Welcome to the audio-described version of official print brochure for Charlestown Navy Yard - Boston National Historical Park. Through text and audio descriptions of photos, illustrations, and maps, this version interprets the two-sided color brochure that Charlestown Navy Yard visitors receive. The brochure explores the history of the park, some of its highlights, and information for planning your visit. This audio version lasts about 31 minutes which we have divided into 19 sections, as a way to improve the listening experience. Sections 3-9 cover the front of the brochure and include the history of the park. Sections 10-17 cover the back of the brochure and what to expect when visiting. Section 18 covers Accessibility and 19 covers More Information.

↑ back to top

OVERVIEW: Charlestown Navy Yard - Boston National Historical Park

Charlestown Navy Yard is a division of the Boston National Historical Park, located in Massachusetts, is part of the National Park Service, within the Department of the Interior. Of the 129.5 acres of the Boston National Historical Park, 30 acre were designated to the property of Charlestown Navy Yard. The shipyard is located at the mouth of the Boston Harbor off the coast of Boston, Massachusetts. Boston National Historical Park, was established in 1974, with the property name of Charlestown Navy Yard. The same year of establishment the shipyard had also officially closed down. Each year, approximately three million visitors come to enjoy themselves at the Boston National Historical Park. 

For those seeking to learn more about the park during their visit to the Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center, call 617-242-5601, or go to www.nps.gov/bost. To find out more about what resources might be available or to contact the park directly, visit the "Accessibility" and "More Information" sections at the end of this audio-described brochure.

↑ back to top

OVERVIEW: Front side of brochure

The front side of the brochure goes over the importance of the Charlestown Navy Yard in regard to the United States between 1814 and it's closing in in 1974. The top half of the brochure is a large illustration of a supply ship on a dry dock. The remainder of the page is a timeline shows important events and achievements that impacted this site by using images, illustrations, and text to depict these times. 

↑ back to top

IMAGE and TEXT: Charlestown Navy Yard

DESCRIPTION: Colored illustration across the top half of brochure. Large brown oblong shape boat. Propped upright by intricate scaffolding beyond top and around the whole ship on dry dock. People found around boat working to repair or build. Small flames near people from welding. Large piece of boat and other parts scattered around foreground. Silver metal crane perpendicular to boat in front and the distance. Train tracks with black steam engine to the right of boat. Smoke releasing into air from top and bottom of train. Two floor warehouse style buildings line both sides of the image. Blue sky with a smoky shield.

CAPTION: The supply ship Bridge under construction in World War I. 

CREDIT: NPS/John Batchelor

RELATED TEXT: A naval vessel on the open sea is the image of self-sufficiency. But there is an important if largely unseen background to this vision: the naval shipyard. A warship is born and christened at a shipyard and must periodically return for refitting, supplying, and maintenance. In time of war, the shipyard is a refuge for damaged ships needing repair.

Established in 1800, Charlestown Navy Yard served the fleet with distinction—especially proving its worth in each of the nation’s wars—until its closing in 1974. The men and women of its workforce built over 200 warships and maintained and repaired thousands. From its inception the yard was in the forefront of shipyard technology, from building the Navy’s only ropewalk to making itself a center of missile and electronics conversions. In its 174-year history, Charlestown Navy Yard played an important role in the birth, growth, and continued effectiveness of the U.S. Navy.

↑ back to top

IMAGES and TIMELINE: 1814–1943

IMAGE 1 of 8: 1814, Ship

DESCRIPTION: Black and white, speckled drawing of a ship with with three large masts. The boat itself is elongated with pointed ends. 

CREDIT: NPS


IMAGE 2 of 8: 1837, House

DESCRIPTION: Sepia-tone colored illustration of a three floor building with pointed roof and smoke stack in the distance off the backside. Stairs lead to the front with a carport like covering on the right. People scatter through the foreground and the left of the building. 

CREDIT: NPS


IMAGE 3 of 8: 1837, Anchor cables

DESCRIPTION: Colored drawing of two brown ropes circling around a reddish-brown circular cable. The cable has a slight curve overlapping the left bottom corner of the 1837, House. 

CREDIT: NPS/Greg Harlin


IMAGE 4 of 8: 1837, Workers building a boat

DESCRIPTION: Sepia-tone colored illustration of three people working on the side of horizontal wood paneling, chains drooping off the side, a small raining above and post in the foreground.  The two exterior people are crouching towards the middle person. The middle person sings overhead some type of t-shaped tool. All three people wear pants with suspenders, long sleeved shirts with the arms rolled. Both exterior people wear hats with the brim circling entirely. 

CREDIT: NPS


IMAGE 5 of 8: 1858, USS Hartford

DESCRIPTION: Colored illustration of a large brown boat with three masts, the two on the right are larger than the one on the left. Ropes hang off each mast in all directions. Flag flies off the furthest mast on the left. Row of windows span the boat below the deck. Partial refection of boat in the water.

CREDIT: Mariners Museum


IMAGE 6 of 8: 1926, Die-lock chain

DESCRIPTION: Close up color illustration of four and a half chains locked within one another. Each link is a rusted reddish-orange oval with two hollowed out circles that the link next it around the edge. 

CREDIT: NPS/John Batchelor


IMAGE 7 of 8: 1926, Welder holding die-lock chain

DESCRIPTION: Vertical black and white rectangular image of a person holding half a die-lock towards the front. The lock is approximately five times bigger then their hand. The person years a button up jacket and a collard shirt. A black filled in circle around the eyes of the person. Other people in the far distance with black around their eyes.  

CREDIT: U.S. Navy


IMAGE 8 of 8: 1943, Welder Poster

DESCRIPTION: Black and white vertical rectangular poster. Top of poster says "Launching" with the words "Ships for Victory" below with a dark flag to the right. Below these two lines are unleadable numbers and letters. A sailor stands with his legs apart and hands on hops. He stands in the center of the poster with a dark uniform, white collar, and white sailor hat. Behind him is a map, triangular flags across the front of him, in the foreground are the shadows of people standing with their arms up. The bottom of the poster has the words, "U.S. Navy Year, Boston Mass." and more unleadable writing below. 

CREDIT: National Archives


RELATED TEXT: 

1814: The first ship built by the Charlestown yard, USS Independence was also the nation’s first ship of the line—the battleship of its day.

1837: At the steam-powered ropewalk, workers transformed hemp fibers into 1,200-foot lengths of anchor cable. Wooden hull seams were caulked with oakum, a loose hemp yarn treated with tar. This type of maintenance was a routine task for the yard.  

1858: Charlestown-built USS Hartford was an early steam-powered “screw sloop.” It served as Adm. David Farragut’s flagship during the Civil War.

1926 : Die-lock chain, invented by yard workers, was light and strong. Red-hot link halves were joined together.

1943 : The yard launched over 170 vessels during World War II. Its workforce peaked at 52,000, with women playing an important role.

↑ back to top

IMAGE and TEXT: From sail to steam: The 19th-century yard


DESCRIPTION: Black and white horizontal image with an orange boarder. Large flat top boat with narrow fin touching bottom on a dry-dock. Two rows of long wood planks connecting the dock walls and the boat, to hold upright. People stand on both rows of planks on both sides of the boat. Person on group stands next to a plank of wood on ground with a shovel like tool. Bridge like road in the far distance help up by cables. Flag post on left side of image and long industrial style building on the right side. 

CAPTION: USS Constellation was dry-docked for scraping, recaulking, and painting before returning to sea in 1859.

CREDIT: NPS

RELATED TEXT:

In 1798 the United States prepared to defend itself at sea. The Navy Department, hoping to build six ships of the line, established six naval shipyards in 1800–01, one of them in Boston Harbor. The young nation was spurred by the depredations of the Barbary pirates of North Africa and French privateers, who had been plundering U.S. merchant shipping in the 1790s. But the building program died, and in its early years the yard in Charlestown was a small supply depot.

The War of 1812 changed that, when Charlestown began work on the nation’s first ship of the line. Throughout its history, the yard’s primary function would be as a repair and maintenance facility, but it continued to build ships, mostly during wartime. Until the 1890s they were constructed under great shiphouses. In the 1850s Charlestown began constructing steam warships, and during the Civil War built Monadnock, an ironclad monitor. The yard specialized in producing double-ended paddlewheelers for the Union “brown-water navy.” These vessels could reverse direction on narrow southern rivers without turning around.

By 1860 this was a thriving yard with a dry dock, a machine shop that could build steam engines, a ropewalk, and 2,000 workers. But Charlestown suffered in the post-war naval decline; manufacturing—especially rope—kept the yard alive. In the “New Navy” of the late 1880s and ’90s the yard was modernized, allowing it to service the steel ships fighting in the Spanish-American War.

↑ back to top

TEXT: Steel ships and war: The 20th-century yard

An ambitious shipbuilding program in the years before World War I made the U.S. Navy one of the most powerful in the world. During the war Charlestown came into its own as a repair yard for battleships, cruisers, and especially destroyers. These all-purpose vessels, a new class developed to counter torpedo ships, were also used for escort duty, antisubmarine warfare, and shore bombardment. Late in the war the yard laid down its first large steel vessels on open ways that had replaced the shiphouses. But post-war naval treaties limiting the size of the world’s major navies sharply curtailed the yard’s activities. The Depression took away more work, and by 1931 there were calls to close the yard. President Franklin Roosevelt’s recovery programs, coupled with Japanese aggression in Asia, led to a rapidly expanding navy. Charlestown was assigned destroyers, and for the first time it was primarily a construction yard. It continued to build destroyers until the end of World War II, when the time from keel-laying to launching had been cut from 15 months to three. It also built a large number of tank landing ships and destroyer escorts. Its workforce swollen to 52,000, the yard hummed day and night with the intensity of the war effort. In the post-war years, Charlestown found a new role modernizing old destroyers. It specialized in missile, sonar, and radar conversions, converting Gyatt into the first guided missile destroyer. The end of the rehabilitation programs and fleet cutbacks finally brought an end to Charlestown’s long and honorable history.

↑ back to top

IMAGES and TEXT: Men, women, and machines: The workforce

IMAGE 1 of 2: Workers on a roof

DESCRIPTION: Vertical black and white image of two people leaning on their sides working vertically, one higher in the image than the other. Both people wear long sleeve shirt, pants, and gloves with a large helmet like hat with face shield. Puff of smoke forms around the hands of the lower person. Ropes hang around both people. The wall like structure they work on has long horizonal like verticals made from metal or steel like material. 

CREDIT: NPS


IMAGE 2 of 2: U.S. employment service poster

DESCRIPTION: Colored vertical poster. The center image is a depiction of Rosie the Riveter with her iconic red bandana, blue button up collard top, and white gloves. She has almost porcelain like skin with brown hair and long dark eyelashes. Her hands push a silver screwdriver with a black bit on the end into a steel like material. On the right side of the poster is the statement, “Do the job HE left behind”. The words are written in a blueish gray except the word “HE” which is written in a pink bubble letter. Below Rosie is the words “Apply U.S. Employment Service”. The word “Apply” is written in red capital letters and the words “U.S. Employment Service” is in black capital letters. 

CREDIT: U.S. Navy


RELATED TEXT:

Enormous dry docks, looming cranes, massive naval vessels—the scale of the work was huge, but it all ultimately depended on skilled hands and sharp minds. The civilian workforce who did this demanding, sometimes dangerous work changed as the yard did. Early on they were native New Englanders; later many were immigrants.

As wooden ships gave way to steel, metalworkers and boilermakers replaced carpenters and sailmakers. The workforce was reduced during the lean 1880s, then increased to 10,000 during World War I. World War II brought significant numbers of African Americans and women into the yard, the latter working for the first time in the yard’s shops.

↑ back to top

IMAGE: Illustration of Navy Yard

DESCRIPTION: Sepia-tone horizontal illustration of a waterfront creating the prospective towards the shipyard spanning the entire bottom of the brochure. Five long oblong ships with two to three masses span the image from left to right of the image. A wall or dock separate the ships in the water from the buildings in the shipyard. Buildings line the background ranging in sizes. Industrial like buildings closer to the right foreground with smokestacks with smoke being released out the top. 

CAPTION: The yard in 1873; shipbuilding houses are at far right.

CREDIT: NPS

↑ back to top

OVERVIEW: Back side of brochure

The backside of the brochure allows the reader the understanding of what visiting this site might be like. Along with a map of the historical park and surrounding area. The park provides information about the Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center, the USS Cassin Young, along with other historical buildings and ships. 

↑ back to top

IMAGE and TEXT: Warships, Dry Docks, Ropewalk, and More

DESCRIPTION: Black and white aerial horizontal photograph of the Boston Harbor waterfront including the dry docks and numerous buildings. 27 different size elongated ships span the center of the image, with the front and back to the top and bottom of the image. Each boat is next to a dock, some boats have a dock on the left and others on the right. The foreground is water with lighter colored sections. Buildings of different shapes and sizes span the top half of the image. Throughout the buildings are roads, trees, and small amount of open areas. To the right of the center of the image is a large boat with cranes surrounding it. 

CAPTION: In 1925, 29 battles ships, cruisers, destroyers and submarines were docked for repair and maintenance. Constitution, near Dry dock 2 in this 1925 photo, was moved for restoration to Dry Dock 1 in 1927.

CREDIT: National Geographic Society Image Collection/Hamilton Maxwell

RELATED TEXT:

A walk through Charlestown Navy Yard conveys the awesome scope of production, array of skills, and complex and interrelated operations of naval shipyards. From the immense basin of the dry dock to the elegant Commandant’s House that overlooks it, the yard shows the range of activities carried out by civilian workers and naval personnel carried out. When the yard closed in 1974, 30 acres were set aside to form this historic site. Today you can see thee park at your leisure or take one of the guided tours.

↑ back to top

TEXT: Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center

Charlestown Navy Yard Visitor Center at Building 5 houses the exhibit Serving the Naval Fleet. Artifacts, original documents, hands-on activities, images, and audiovisual programs tell the story of the navy yard—from a 25-acre storage facility in 1800 to a sprawling post-World War II repair, maintenance, and conversion yard. Try making rope, guide a ship into a dry dock, or browse the bookstore. Access to the visitor center and USS Constitution is through a security screening facility, so be prepared to wait while each visitor is screened. The visitor center has restrooms and is wheelchair-accessible.

↑ back to top

IMAGE and TEXT: USS Cassin Young

DESCRIPTION: Colored photograph of blue boat with a black base sitting in the water. Photo was taken on a dock with camera facing a portion of the front and one side of the boat. The number 793 on the side in large white lettering with a black boarder. Above the numbers, a large anchor hangs of the side of the boat towards the front. White ropes connect the front point of the boat to the dock in the bottom left corner. Flag post with dark flag on the front point of boat. Railing lines the top deck. Group of people stand in the front of the boat. Center of the boat has large pieces of machinery and watch tower like structure stands tall. Flags hang off the tower in all directions. Plank connects the dock to the ship. Dock is a tan cement-like structure. The water the boat rests in is a bright blueish green. Sky is bright blue towards the upper most part of the image and becomes whiter the further down the image goes. Buildings and tree are the distance. 

CAPTION: During the Cold War USS Cassin Young docked here regularly for modernization and maintenance until it was decommissioned in 1960. 

CREDIT: NPS/Jame Higgins

RELATED TEXT: USS Cassin Young represents World War II-era destroyers—the Navy’s fastest, most versatile ships. Launched in 1943, Cassin Young took part in the climactic Battle of Leyte Gulf in 1944, but its fiercest combat experience was in the 1945 invasion of Okinawa. The ship provided supporting fire, then moved out for radar picket duty. Picket ships were the first to be targeted by Kamikaze aircraft—the “Divine Wind.” Two struck Cassin Young, leaving 23 of the crew dead and over 100 wounded. During the Cold War in the 1950s Cassin Young docked here regularly for modernization and maintenance until it was decommissioned in 1960. The main deck is self-guiding; see the rest of the ship by tour.

↑ back to top

IMAGES and TEXT: War of 1812

IMAGE 1 of 2: USS Constitution

DESCRIPTION: Colored photograph of a large three mast ship with no sails flying. The ship is green with a set of windows spanning the side. Rope like lines stretch from all the masts to the boat in all directions. The boat is in the water parallel with a dock on the far side of the boat. The water is a blue-green with part of the boat's reflection visible. Bright blue skies with fluffy white clouds throughout.

CAPTION: USS Constitution is the nation's oldest commissioned warship.

CREDIT: Positive images/Patricia J. Bruno


IMAGE 2 of 2: Women workers

DESCRIPTION: Colored vertical image of a feminine person wearing a welders mask up on top of their head. Large denim jacket and overall like pants with a white shirt under. Large brown welder gloves on both hands with the closest to the foreground holding onto a tool with a long cord out the other end. Their shadow on the ground directly behind with blue skies visible in the distance. Ship-like walls surround the person with a large antenna in the distance on the left. 

CAPTION: Portraying women workers

CREDIT: NPS/James Higgins


RELATED TEXT: During the War of 1812, when USS Constitution won three battles against British warships, it became the nation’s most famous naval vessel. The 1797 frigate also earned its nickname during the conflict. Legend has it that a crew member, watching shot bounce off Constitution’s thick oak hull, cried out that its sides were made of iron. The ship has ever since been known as “Old Ironsides.” Permanently berthed at Charlestown Navy Yard since 1897, the ship has been overhauled several times in Dry Dock 1. Its annual Turnaround Cruise is on the Fourth of July. Tours on the nation’s oldest commissioned warship are given by the U.S. Navy.

From taking a turn at a mock ship’s wheel to trying out a seaman’s hammock, visitors to the USS Constitution Museum learn about life on a fighting ship of the 1800s. The ship is brought to life with an extensive collection of logs, journals, charts, and weapons. The museum is in the historic Dry Dock 1 Pumphouse, where a steam engine drove the great pumps that emptied and filled the dock. 

↑ back to top

IMAGES and TEXT: On Your Own

IMAGE 1 of 2: Commandant's House

DESCRIPTION: Colored image of a four-story building with distinct different levels. First level is ground level, directly in the center of the building is a square window with small squares within and a black ledge surpassing the windows edges. Stairs with railings lead in opposite directions towards both sides of the building on the second level. The second floor is white and rectangular with three arch windows each with a black ledge. Both sides have a covered patio. On the roof of the right side is a ladder like stairs that leads to the fourth floor. The third floor is red with rounded edges. Three rectangular windows, the two on the ends are double the size of the middle one. The fourth floor makes an A-frame with a set of double doors in the middle. A white railing encircles the top of the third floor. Chimney stacks on both sides of the buildings edge. Green bushes cover the from of the building with tree branches in the top left corner. Blue skies and white clouds behind building. 

CAPTION: Commandant's House is the oldest building in the yard. 

CREDIT: NPS/Boston NHP

IMAGE 1 of 2: Muster House

DESCRIPTION: Colored image of a three-story red building with an additional small white circular lookout with a pointed gray roof. The top lookout has arch windows circling all sides. The building creates an octagon like shape. Each floor has rectangular windows on each floor, two per side. The first floor has a covered patio that circles the entire building. Green grass with brown spots spans the foreground with small trees around the building. Bright blue skies with no clouds. 

CAPTION: Muster House

CREDIT: NPS/ James Higgins

RELATED TEXT: 

Since 1805 the commandants of the yard have lived in the imposing Commandant’s House. Their high social standing was reflected in the list of dignitaries attending functions at the house, including Presidents James Monroe and Andrew Johnson, Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, and the Marquis de Lafayette. The oldest building in the yard, it is open in the summer for special tours.

The bell atop the Muster House rang to assemble workers. Some reported to the quarter-mile-long Ropewalk, which spun most of the Navy’s rope. Workers at the Forge Shop hammered out armor plate and the anchor chain that replaced rope. U.S. Marines assigned to protect the yard were housed in the Marine Barracks. (These sites are closed to the public.)

One of the nation’s first two dry docks, Dry Dock 1 was completed in 1833 and first used by Constitution. After the granite dock was emptied and the ship rested on wooden blocks, workers could repair its hull without “heeling over” the vessel—the arduous and dangerous method used earlier. 

Connecting Boston’s historic sites, the Freedom Trail includes USS Constitution and the Bunker Hill Monument, a short walk from the yard. The obelisk commemorates the first major battle of the American Revolution.

↑ back to top

TEXT: For a safe visit

Be alert for uneven surfaces, railroad tracks, and moving cranes. Avoid the edges of piers and dry docks. For firearms regulations check the park website. 

↑ back to top

MAP: Charlestown Navy Yard with surrounding area

DESCRIPTION: Aerial digital map of the Charlestown Navy Yard, its surrounding areas, and the surrounding body of waters. The purpose of the map is to provide direction and building locations.

At the Visitor Center one can find an information station, restrooms, and wheelchair accessibility.

The legend is placed on the far-right side of the map:

There are different colors separating different distinctions. Blacked out spaces are ships and buildings open to the public (Commandant’s House and Shipyard Galley are open seasonally), pale orange is historic buildings, gray is non-historic structures, All capital lettered writing is historic building names, green is public open space, dotted gray line marks the Boston Harbor Walk, solid red line marks the Freedom Trail (route subject to change), dotted red line marks walking route from Freedom Trail to USS Cassin Young.

Five pictographs describing facilities including: public parking, information, restrooms, wheelchair-accessible, and water shuttle and Harbor Tour docks.

On the bottom left of the page is a North arrow pointing to the top right of the map. Beside that is two distance scale depicting meters of 10, 50, and 100 as well as feet of 100 and 500.

The area in the top left corner is open land with a handful of roads traveling in all directions. Within this area is the Paul Revere Park, City Square Park, and Training Field. The center of the map is the Charlestown Navy Yard along with the rest of the shipyard to the right. This area runs parallel with the Tobin Bridge/U.S. 1 and perpendicular to the Charlestown Bridge. The bottom of the map to the left is the Charles River and to the right is the Boston Inner Harbor.

The furthest area to the left of this protruded land is the National Park Service Boundary which is in the shape of a bird’s head with beak pointing to the bottom of the map. Gate 4 is found in the top right corner of the park boundary. Buildings from top to bottom and left to right: Commandant’s House, Marine Barracks, Officers’ Quarters, Visitor Center (building 5), Scale House, USS Constitution Museum, Carpenter Shop, Shipyard Gallery (building 10), Paint Shop (building 125), and Site of Marine Railway. On the leftist most part of the park boundary is the USS Constitution and on the bottom of the boundary is the USS Cassin Young. One can find a Harbor tours dock on Pier 1 next to the USS Cassin Young. Dry Dock 1 is found in the center of the park boundary. The walking route from Freedom Trail to USS Cassin Young connects by the Visitor Center to the USS Cassin Young.

The Freedom Trail circles around the middle part of the boundary, up and around Training Field, one part continues to the top of the map towards Bunker Hill Monument and Battle of Bunker Hill Museum and the other park continuing through City Square Park, and then one park circling back to Charlestown Navy Yard and the other park heading to the center left of the map over the Charlestown Bridge towards downtown Boston.

Outside the park boundary to the right side, buildings and labeled areas from top to bottom and left to right: Muster House, Ropewalk, Tar House, Hemp House, Wire Rope Mill, Gate 5, Officers’ Quarters, Gate 6, Supply, Parking area between 5th Avenue and 3rd Avenue, Timber Shed, Forge Shop, Dry Dock 2, Shipyard Park (Massachusetts Korean War Veterans Memorial), Mold Loft, Pier 10, Dry Dock 5, Pier 11, Dry Dock 2 Pumphouse, Water Shuttle dock (leads to the bottom of the map towards Long Wharf in downtown Boston), Machine Shop, Foundry, Site of Shipbuilding Ways 1, Site of Shipbuilding Ways 2, Pier 3, Pier 4, Pier 5, Pier 6, Pier 7, Pier 8. Ship docking areas are located on Pier 6 and 8.

↑ back to top

OVERVIEW: Accessibility

No information is listed on the brochure. Please visit park website at www.nps.gov/bost or call 617-242-5601.


↑ back to top

OVERVIEW: More information

From the brochure: Charlestown Navy Yard is part of Boston National Historical Park, one of over 420 parks in the National Park System. Visit www.nps.gov to learn more about parks and National Park Service programs.

ADDRESS: Visitor Center, Charlestown Navy Yard Boston, MA 02129

PHONE: 617-242-5601

WEBSITE: www.nps.gov/bost

↑ back to top