Charleston Naval Shipyard

Charleston Naval Shipyard (formerly known as the Charleston Navy Yard) was a U.S. Navy ship building and repair facility located along the west bank of the Cooper River, in North Charleston, South Carolina and part of Naval Base Charleston.

Charleston Naval Shipyard
North Charleston, South Carolina
Coordinates32°51′47″N 79°57′59″W
Site information
Controlled byUnited States Navy
Site history
In use19011996 - now as Detyens Shipyards
Charleston Navy Yard Historic District
LocationRoughly bounded by First St., Hobson Ave., Avenue D, Fourth and Fifth Sts., and the drydocks bet. First and Thirteenth S, North Charleston, South Carolina
Coordinates32°51′38″N 79°57′53″W
Area145 acres (59 ha)
Architectural styleLate 19th And 20th Century Revivals, Modern Movement
NRHP reference #06000699[1]
Added to NRHPAugust 09, 2006


It began operations in 1901 as a drydock, and continued as a navy facility until 1996 when it ceased operations as the result of recommendations of the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure Commission. At that time it was leased to Detyens Shipyards, Inc.

Originally designated as the Navy Yard and later as the Naval Base it had a large impact upon the local community, the tri-county area and the entire State of South Carolina.[2]

The yard first produced the destroyer USS Tillman (DD-135), then began to increase production in the 1930s. A total of 21 destroyers were assembled at the naval facility.

In 1931, Ellicott Dredges delivered the 20-inch cutter dredge Orion still in operation at the old Charleston Naval Shipyard.

Two of the largest vessels ever built at the yard were two destroyer tenders, USS Tidewater (AD-31) and USS Bryce Canyon (AD-36). The keels of these ships were laid in November 1944 and July 1945, respectively. Peak employment of 25,948 was reached in July 1943.

After the war, the shipyard was responsible for the repairs and alterations of captured German submarines. In April 1948, Secretary of the Navy John L. Sullivan told Charleston's Representative Rivers and Senator Burnet R. Maybank that the navy planned for CNSY to become a submarine overhaul yard and would ask for an initial appropriation for a battery-charging unit.

The first submarine, USS Conger (SS-477), arrived for overhaul in August 1948. The shipyard expected to overhaul about 132 ships during the year, and its work force had stabilized to nearly 5,000 persons.

North Korean invasion of South Korea in June 1950 increased production once again. By 1951, the shipyard was back to over 8,000 employees. In all, the shipyard activated forty-four vessels and converted twenty-seven for active fleet duty during the Korean War.

Submarines continued to be built into the 1960s along with missiles, and nuclear submarine overhauls took place including USS Scorpion (SSN-589) in 1962. In 1966, the shipyard completed the first refueling of a nuclear submarine, USS Skipjack (SSN-585), and began its first overhaul of a Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) submarine, USS Thomas A. Edison (SSBN-610). Work began on deepening Dry Dock No. 2 so it could handle the massive FBM submarines and destroyers fitted with sonar." [3]

The facility remained a major installation throughout the Cold War as a homeport to numerous cruisers, destroyers, attack submarines, FBM submarines, destroyer tenders, and submarine tenders of the U.S. Atlantic Fleet until its closure in the 1990s as a result of the end of the Cold War and subsequent BRAC Commission action.


With the closure of the Naval Base and Charleston Naval Shipyard in 1996, Detyens, Inc. signed a long term lease. With three dry docks, one floating dock, and six piers, Detyens Shipyards, Inc. is the largest commercial facility on the East Coast. Projects include military, commercial, and cruise ships.

In supporting Joint Base Charleston, 231 acres (93 ha) of the former Charleston Naval Base/Naval Shipyard facility have been transformed into a multiuse Federal complex, with 17 Government and Military tenants, as well as homeport for six RO-RO Military Sealift Command ships, two Coast Guard National Security Cutters, two NOAA research ships, the United States Coast Guard Maritime Law Enforcement Academy, and the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center FLETC-Charleston.

Lastly, a 350-acre section of the former base was planned to be a sustainable, mixed-use urban hub for the city of North Charleston to be called The Navy Yard at Noisette, starting in 2005. In 2010, the developer, the Noisette company, went into foreclosure and Palmetto Railways, part of the S.C. Department of Commerce purchased over 200-acres of the property. In 2013, Palmetto Railways purchased the remaining part of The Navy Yard. The plan is to run freight trains through the north end of the former base to serve a new container port, Navy Base Intermodal Container Transfer Facility, that is under construction at the south end of the former base.[4]

See also


  1. "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
  2. "Naval Base History". Retrieved 5 July 2016.
  3. Colletta, Paolo E., Ed.United States Navy and Marine Corps Bases, Domestic.. Greenwood Press: Westport, CT. 1985. Pgs. 78-102.
  4. State railroad division pays $10 million for remaining Noisette properties on former Navy Base Post and Courier, October 7, 2013.

Further reading

  • Hamer, Fritz P. Charleston Reborn: A Southern City, Its Navy Yard, and World War II (The History Press, 2005).
  • Hamer, Fritz. "Giving a Sense of Achievement: Changing Gender and Racial Roles in Wartime Charleston: 1942-1945." Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association: 1997 (1997) online.
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