Construction of Dry Dock 1, originally known as the Adams Dry Dock, began on July 10, 1827 during John Quincy Adams’ presidency. The opening of the dock was delayed so as to coincide with President Andrew Jackson’s visit to Boston in late June of 1833. This allowed the Gosport, Virginia dry dock to open seven days earlier on June 17, 1833, thereby claiming the designation of being the first and oldest naval dry dock in the United States. The Charlestown Navy Yard dry dock opened on June 24, 1833 with Vice President Martin Van Buren in attendance; President Jackson, although in Boston, was too unwell to attend the opening. The total cost to build Dry Dock 1 was $677,089.78 ½ (equal to approximately over $16 million today).
Charlestown Navy Yard Commandant Jesse Duncan Elliott oversaw the dual inscriptions carved into the left and right headstones of Dry Dock 1. Because the dry dock’s construction took six years and spanned two presidencies, both Presidents Adams and Jackson are acknowledged along with their Secretaries of the Navy, Southard and Woodbury, respectively.
The inscription on the left reads:
COMMENCED 10TH. JULY, 1827.
JOHN Q. ADAMS, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
SAMUEL L. SOUTHARD SECRETARY OF THE NAVY.
AUTHORISED BY THE NINTEENTH CONGRESS.
The inscription on the right reads:
OPENED 24TH. JUNE, 1833.
ANDREW JACKSON PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES.
LEVI WOODBURY SECRETARY OF THE NAVY.
LOAMMI BALDWIN ENGINEER.
Margherita M. Desy
Historian, Naval History & Heritage Command
Margherita M. Desy is the Historian for USS Constitution at Naval History and Heritage Command Detachment Boston.
Manager of Curatorial Affairs, USS Constitution Museum
Kate Monea is the Manager of Curatorial Affairs at the USS Constitution Museum.