If it Ain't Broke, Reuse It!

Meredith Wisner 5 years, 9 months ago

On February 19th 1945 the Brooklyn Navy Yard celebrated it's 144th anniversary with an exhibition.  Held in the Brooklyn Eagle building on 24 Johnson Street, the exhibition featured demonstrations of modern naval innovation, photographs of bygone shipbuilding technology and images of the Yard's changing appearance over time.  High points of the exhibit included the presence of British prison ships in Wallabout Bay, the Civil War Navy Yard, the Naval Lyceum and the launching of the USS Maine. Sound familiar? 

One of the highlights of the Daily Eagle exhibition was a fully functional scale model of Dry Dock 1. For those not familiar with the technology, a dry dock is like a large bathtub with door at one end that opens onto a body of water.  When a ship is in need of repair it waits outside the closed dry dock while water is pumped into its basin.  Once the water has reached the level of the water outside, the door is opened and the ship is floated in.  The door is then closed and the water is pumped out so the ship can drift gently down into a prearranged cradle below.  Dry dock technology allows the ship to remain upright while workers make their repairs, preventing the ship from "keeling over" if you will.  

Rudimentary dry dock technology can be traced back to around 220 BC, though it was a far cry from what we see today. Dry Dock 1 was completed in 1851 and was a considered a marvel; visited by tourists and Brooklyn natives alike.  It played an integral role in the Civil War, and though small by contemporary standards it has been in continuous use to this day. Dry Dock 1 is a sterling example of the kind of adaptive reuse that happens here at the Navy Yard on a daily basis.

By all reports the Daily Eagle exhibition was a smashing success! Open for twenty days the exhibition was seen by 12,117 people and was reported by the completely unbiased Shipworker to be "the greatest event of its time staged by the borough." As with BLDG 92 this exhibition had a dual purpose...employment!  In just over two weeks it referred 3,500 prospective workers to the Navy Yard employment office.  Brilliant!

Like Dry Dock 1, BLDG 92's exhibition appears to be an example of adaptive reuse of an earlier great idea.  Not only does it trace the Yard's storied past through state-of-the-art exhibition design, it showcases the technological innovations that are being developed in the Yard today. Finally, through the Brooklyn Navy Yard's employment center, BLDG 92 provides job opportunities and training for the surrounding community.  And to think, all that and a cafe too!

For more images of Dry Dock 1 please see our new Tumblr Page!