KEYPORT, Wash. (NNS) -- The chain link fence in the middle of the industrial heart of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division, Keyport isolates Building 1, the first purpose-built structure of the Navy activity that took root on the Keyport peninsula in the early 20th century.
NUWC Division, Keyport grew from a torpedo station established in 1914. By July of 1915, the Navy was breaking ground on Building 1, which would house the first torpedo shop and storage facility and, almost by accident, become an iconic structure symbolizing the heritage and innovations of naval weapons and systems engineers.
Building 1 had been scheduled for demolition in 2007, but renewed interest in its history and the determination that rehabilitating it would save a great deal of money resulted in a plan to renovate it. NUWC Division, Keyport’s parent command Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) calls for its organizations to maintain a culture of affordability. This focus on good financial stewardship is one of the pillars of Campaign Plan 2.0, NAVSEA’s strategic vision.
Holly Giermann is a Naval Acquisition Development Program intern working in NUWC Division, Keyport’s Infrastructure Division. Giermann holds a master’s degree in architectural conservation from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, and is a member of the Building 1 project team. One of her jobs is to recommend what historical aspects of Building 1 are both significant enough—and structurally sound enough—to preserve as the building is readied for a new life 100 years after its construction. This task is made more complicated by the fact that Building 234, formerly known simply as the “power station,” is directly attached to Building 1.
“The 1915 plan shows the ’Power Plant’ and, on the same sheet, shows ‘Administration’, which we refer to today as Building 1,” Giermann said. “Collectively, these functions were titled the ‘Torpedo Storehouse.’”
“We have to treat them as one building because, historically, they were treated as one building,” Giermann said. “There’s elements of both tied together.”
However, while the restoration plan that is under development will treat Buildings 1 and 234 as one structure for the purposes of renovation, they will officially remain separately designated.
A commander’s office was added to Building 1’s second story in 1938 with such care to detail that it appears to have been an original part of the building. Indeed, until Giermann points it out, the office blends quietly into Building 1, calling no attention to itself. This office is one addition the restoration plan will retain due to its historic significance. However, many later additions in the late 1930s and 1940s significantly altered the structure’s appearance, and were removed by selective demolition.
“Phase one of the restoration is complete,” Giermann said. Selective demolition was conducted to remove the non-original interior walls that honeycombed the vast interior shop, morphing it from a pre-World War I era torpedo overhaul facility into a post-Cold War era maintenance administrative facility.
Perhaps most importantly, all the hazardous materials common to early 20th century construction have been abated and removed. No longer will asbestos or lead paint be a threat to the health of future workers.
Wearing a hardhat inside the ancient workshop, Giermann points up to the massive windows lining the upper half of the two-story high walls, an architectural feature known as a “monitor roof". One set of these historical clerestory steel windows were accidentally preserved by a mid-20th century wooden second story addition that was recently torn down. The other set was not protected and has been exposed to a century’s worth of weather.
“If we can save the clerestory steel windows, we will,” Giermann said. “If not, they will be replaced by identical modern windows to retain the historic look.”
The clerestory windows were designed to be opened for ventilation using a hand-operated crank system that was cutting-edge technology in 1915. That system will preserved and restored for display purposes.
The overhead bridge crane is still intact and retains many of the original markings painted on it in 1915.
“We’re going to try and preserve any of the markings on the crane and walls,” Giermann said, pointing to faded stenciled letters around the structure. “We even found some wood mill work, moldings and chair rails in the second floor, we hope to restore and reinstall.”
With the completion of the selective demolition, Building 1 has been largely restored to its original appearance.
“We’ve essentially put it back to the 1915 configuration,” Giermann said. As far as Building 234’s plans go, the next step will be seismic upgrades to ensure the structure’s stability in the event of an earthquake.
Giermann said the new work areas planned for Building 1 will have restricted access for security reasons, but the building’s end spaces will be open to anyone with NUWC Division, Keyport access. These spaces will contain historical displays telling the story of Building 1 and the torpedo station, and a multi-use conference room.
Building 1 saw a hundred years of service as a torpedo storage and repair facility, commander’s office, administrative space and several other uses. However, the building’s story is far from over. With its historic significance recognized, it is preparing to enter its second century as a functioning part of NUWC Division, Keyport.
For more news from Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division, Keyport, visit www.navy.mil/local/nuwcd/.