Naval Weapons Station Yorktown

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For US naval vessels named Yorktown, see USS Yorktown.
Naval Weapons Station Yorktown
Yorktown, Virginia
Type naval base
Site information
Controlled by United States Navy
Site history
Built 1918,
In use 1918–present

Naval Weapons Station Yorktown is a United States Navy base in York County, James City County, and Newport News in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia. It provides a weapons and ammunition storage and loading facility for ships of the US Atlantic Fleet.

Location[edit]

The Naval Weapons Station (NWS) Complex (including Cheatham Annex) is 20.7 square miles (54 km2) in size, roughly 1/5 of the total land area of York County, in which most of it lies; a small portion is within James City County.

The station is bounded on the northwest by the Naval Supply Center Cheatham Annex, the Virginia Emergency Fuel Farm, and land owned by the Department of the Interior; on the northeast by almost 14 miles (23 km) of the York River and the Colonial National Historical Park; on the southwest by Route 143 and I-64; and on the southeast by Route 238 and the community of Lackey.[1][2]

The station borders the cities of Newport News and Williamsburg. It shares almost 14 miles (23 km) of the York River shoreline (about half of York County's York River shoreline and wetlands) with the National Park Service.

The large Camp Peary, which also has much York River frontage on the northern side of the Virginia Peninsula, is adjacent to the Naval Station.

History[edit]

The site of NWS Yorktown is rich in colonial era (1607–1776) history, as well as that of the American Civil War (1861–1865). The station sits on the riverfront, in an area that was an early settlement of English colonists in Virginia. They displaced the Algonquian-speaking Kiskiack and other American Indian tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy, who historically inhabited the area. The colonial infantry of the American Revolutionary War and forces of the Civil War slogged along the Old Williamsburg Road. Today it runs through the station. The oldest structure at the Yorktown Naval Weapons Station is "Kiskiack", also known as the Lee House, built as a private residence around 1649.

US Navy 080801-N-3312P-001 File photo of the Lee House, the only original plantation house still standing on Naval Weapons Station Yorktown

It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Before World War I, the DuPont Company acquired a 4,000-acre (16 km2) site on the banks of the York River and built a dynamite plant, that came to be known as Penniman. Before production started, the Navy acquired the site in August 1918 by presidential proclamation response to the outbreak of World War I in Europe. This became the largest naval installation in the world. The Navy originally created the Navy Mine Depot, Yorktown.[3]

The Navy's intent to lay the North Sea Mine Barrage to protect commercial shipping required an Atlantic Seaboard plant. Here the mines would be stored, assembled, loaded, tested and issued to the Service. It also required a station for the training of personnel to adjust and operate the mines. The Navy selected a tract of land, about 18 square miles (47 km2) of area near Yorktown, Virginia, as the best location on the East Coast for its mine activities. The Bureau of Ordnance of the Navy Department assumed possession one month later.

Yorktown was near the Navy Operating Base at Hampton Roads, the Norfolk Navy Yard, and the Fuel Bases of the Fifth Naval District. It had excellent transportation access, with the main lines of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad forming one of the boundaries of the Depot, and five miles (8 km) of waterfront on the navigable York River. Ocean-going vessels of largest size and deepest draft could navigate there.

To make way for the new Mine Depot, the government acquired by eminent domain the property of many landowners along the former Yorktown-Williamsburg Road in nearby Lackey. Both landowners and tenants in this area were primarily African American. (Since the 19th century, this area had been locally known as "the Reservation".)

Assisted by self-educated farmer John Tack Roberts (born ca. 1860), many of the displaced residents of Lackey were able to negotiate better financial compensation for their properties. Many relocated to the community of Grove in nearby James City County. Another small community, also named Lackey, was later developed along the Yorktown Road a few miles away.

As many as 10,000 personnel worked at the facility during World War I. Many workers lived in the town of Penniman. After WWI and the Navy's shift away from mines, this community also vanished as workers moved away. Halstead's Point, another community of workers on the station, also declined and disappeared. It was located near the present main gate off State Route 143.

Current use[edit]

Over the years, the growth and expansion of the Navy's technical requirements and responsibilities have been reflected by corresponding developments at the station to support the Atlantic Fleet.

As part of the Navy’s Mid-Atlantic installation consolidation, Cheatham Annex, formerly an annex of the Fleet Industrial Supply Center, Norfolk, was incorporated with the station on October 1, 1998. This area of land located in the Jamestown, Williamsburg, Yorktown area known as the Historic Triangle of Colonial Virginia was acquired by the Navy on June 21, 1943. Cheatham Annex includes the former site of the "lost town" of Penniman, Virginia.

Naval Weapons Station Yorktown hosts 25 tenant commands which include the Navy Munitions Command, the Naval Ophthalmic Support and Training Activity, the Marine Corps Second Fleet Antiterrorism Security Team, NAVSUP Fleet Logistics Center Norfolk detachment, Navy Expeditionary Medical Support Command, Navy Expeditionary Logistics Support Group, Riverine Squadron THREE, Maritime Civil Affairs Squadron TWO, and 19 Storefronts.

The station and tenant commands work together as a team to provide ordnance logistics, technical, supply and related services to the Atlantic Fleet. Today the station is a hub of activity. As one of the Navy's "explosive corridors" to the sea, supply, amphibious and combatant ships may be seen arriving and departing the station's two piers.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • McCartney, Martha W. (1977) James City County: Keystone of the Commonwealth; James City County, Virginia; Donning and Company; ISBN 0-89865-999-X

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°14′09″N 76°32′57″W / 37.235902°N 76.549235°W / 37.235902; -76.549235