The Times-Picayune is marking the tricentennial of New Orleans with its ongoing 300 for 300 project, running through 2018 and highlighting the moments and people that connect and inspire us. Today, the series continues with the start of the U.S. Navy’s century-plus presence in Algiers.
THEN: Algiers’ relationship with the Navy began on Nov. 6, 1901, when the U.S. Naval Station was formally established with the arrival of Naval Dry Dock YFD-2. Coverage in the next day’s Daily Picayune was nothing short of rapturous, proclaiming that the dry dock was “not the consummation, but the consequential detail, of a grand scheme on the part of Congress to make New Orleans a great naval station and augment her glory as mistress of commerce.”
NOW: The installation, which became formally known as Naval Support Activity New Orleans, was active until September 2011, when it was shut down, six years after the Pentagon included it on a list of bases to be closed. Title was transferred in 2014 to the Algiers Development District, which announced a plan to convert it into a multipurpose center employing 10,000 people, but that hasn’t happened. In 2016, the district terminated its contract with Vista Louisiana, which it had hired to develop the site.
- The Algiers land is part of an immense tract that the Company of the Indies gave to Jean Baptist Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville, New Orleans’ founder, in 1719, a year after he founded the city.
- After several changes of ownership, the federal government bought the land in February 1849 for a Navy yard, but nothing happened for more than a half-century. During that period, the tract was leased for farming.
The facility grew to include land across the Mississippi River. The Navy’s East Bank operation was in Bywater, hard by the Industrial Canal at the foot of Poland Avenue. The military presence there started in World War I, when the Army built a quartermaster depot there. Known as the Port of Embarkation, it was acquired by the Navy in the 1960s to become part of the Naval Support Activity.
- The Bywater installation used to house the national headquarters for the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve.
- Navy Reserve headquarters has been moved to Norfolk, Va., and naval personnel and recruiting operations were moved to Millington, Tenn.
- Other units that had been on the Algiers campus were moved to the National Air Station-Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse.
- The dry dock that was the first component of what would become the Naval Support Activity was eventually moved to Pearl Harbor. It was cradling the destroyer USS Shaw when the Japanese attacked on Dec. 7, 1941.
N.O. DNA: For more than a century, the Naval Support Activity played a…