ASME-Landmark:Portsmouth-Kittery Naval Shipbuilding Activity


The shipyard at Portsmouth was the first U.S. naval shipyard—not only did shipbuilding for the British Royal Navy in Portsmouth-Kittery begin in 1690, but colonists took the port from the British the very day after Paul Revere's ride to Portsmouth in mid-December 1774. The fort's capture was the first organized military step against the Mother Country, and colonists soon began a fully integrated operation for U.S. warships, which became the Portsmouth-Kittery Naval Shipbuilding Activity.

By the end of 1775, Congress had authorized thirteen frigates to be ready in three months' time, which included the Raleigh, the 32 gun frigate to be built at Portsmouth under the direction of John Langdon. The Raleigh was followed by the 18 gun sloop, Ranger, and the 74 gun ship of the line America—the heaviest ship that had ever been laid down on the continent for which she was named—was built and given to France as a present for their assistance in the revolution. By 1874, the yards had accounted for the construction of over fifty-four ships.

Some thirty buildings dating before 1900, such as the Mast and Boat Shop and Riggers and Sail Loft of 1837, show the marks of those pioneer days, with walls made of large granite blocks; hand-forged hardware; hand-hewn timber roofs; and wood peg fasteners. The modern shipyard now builds and repairs submarines. Among numerous technical firsts and production of notable ships, it was the first government yard to build a submarine (1914 to 1917) and a nuclear submarine (Swordfish, 1958). See ASME website for more information