The Brooklyn Navy Yard has a long history of shipbuilding. In 1801 the United States Navy acquired the land to construct naval vessels. During World War II, the workforce reached 70,000 employees (including women), and many significant wartime ships were created there. By 1966, the Department of Defense closed the Navy Yard. The site was acquired by the City of New York and reopened in 1969 as an industrial park.
When the Yard reopened, Seatrain Shipbuilding was its largest commercial tenant, and employed over 3,100 union workers. Seatrain experienced economic troubles throughout its existence and by 1981 the company declared bankruptcy and operations were shut down. Today, the Yard has over 300 tenants and more than 7,000 employees working in a diverse array of industries.
This photograph comes from the Frank J. Trezza Seatrain Shipbuilding collection. Trezza was an employee at Seatrain from 1973 to 1978, starting out as a Mechanic Helper, and working his way to First Class Marine Electrician. Seatrain was known for its job training and workforce diversity initiatives, which is reflected in the diversity of employees in these photographs. This collection offers an intimate perspective and documentation of shipbuilding activities at Seatrain. In particular, the color photographs from 1977 to 1978 taken by Trezza, show employees and a seemingly pleasant and friendly working life at Seatrain in its final years of operation. To view more photographs from this collection, check out this gallery.
To learn more about the history of Brooklyn Navy Yard, be sure to check out the Brooklyn Navy Yard research guide. Brooklyn Historical Society partners with Brooklyn Navy Yard Center at BLDG 92 to offer free educational programs and tours for K-12 students and teachers in NYC public schools. Learn more about programs for school groups here.
Interested in seeing more photos from BHS’s collection? Visit our online image gallery, which includes a selection of our images. Interested in seeing even more historic Brooklyn images? Visit our Brooklyn Visual Heritage website here. To search BHS’s entire collection of images, archives, maps, and special collections visit BHS’s Othmer Library Wed-Sat, 1:00-5:00 p.m. email@example.com