The origins of the Brooklyn Navy Yard (officially known as the New York Naval Shipyard) date back to1801, when the United States Navy acquired what had previously been a small, privately owned shipyard in order to construct naval vessels. By the time the Defense Department ceased shipbuilding activities at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1966, 88 vessels had been manufactured at the facility. In 1967, the Brooklyn Navy Yard was acquired by the City of New York and was converted for private commercial use.
Seatrain Shipbuilding commenced shipbuilding activities at the Brooklyn Navy Yard in 1969, and during its tenure at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Seatrain built four VLCC (Very Large Carrying Capacity) oil tankers, eight barges, and one ice breaker barge. The company employed approximately 3,100 union workers through the mid-1970’s. However, economic troubles developed throughout its existence and by the time the company declared bankruptcy its once large workforce had shrunk to 550.
The Frank J. Trezza Brooklyn Navy Yard collection is particularly interesting because it contains several hundred color photographs, black & white photographs, color negatives, and black & white negatives, all photographed by Frank J. Trezza during his tenure at the Seatrain Shipbuilding. Though the dates of the collection span from 1861 to 1988, the bulk of the records are from the period 1973-1978, when Mr. Trezza was an employee of Seatrain Shipbuilding. The images offer an inside view of the Navy Yard during the final years of shipbuilding there. Included are landscapes of the Navy Yard and its surrounding area, portraits of fellow Seatrain employees on the job, and images of the ships that were built or repaired at the Navy Yard during this time. There are also a few copy prints obtained from the National Archives that depict ships built at the Navy Yard from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century.
Currently, the Brooklyn Historical Society has an active partnership with the Brooklyn Navy Yard. During the planning process of the BNYC 92 Interpretive Center’s exhibition, the Brooklyn Historical Society staff served as museum advisers. Our education department is developing the Center’s inaugural education program, Ingenious Inventions, a tour where students will explore innovation and technology in the Yard, from dry docks and advancements in shipbuilding technology to the Yard’s reinvention as a site for green technology and sustainable production. You can go to their website for more information on the BNYC 92 Interpretive Center to learn more about the Brooklyn Navy Yard and experience the Yard’s shipbuilding history first hand.