Boston Navy Yard
The Boston Navy Yard was established in 1801 in Charlestown, Massachusetts. It was named after the city of Boston, even though it was actually a few miles away. Because of this many people referred to the site as the Charlestown Navy Yard.
Naval officials approved the building of this facility to help create new ships for the fleet, and to repair those that had been damaged. The USS INDEPENDENCE was the fist ship that was turned out by the Boston Navy Yard, and many other large warships followed. However, the facility was most commonly used to store and repair existing vessels.
This Massachusetts based shipyard served the country throughout several different wars. It was operated by Union troops during the Civil War, and played a major roll during both World Wars I and II. The Second World War was largely responsible for the facility being greatly expanded, and the hiring of a record number of workers, topping off at about 50,000 individuals. This was a direct result of the onslaught of attacks from German submarines known as U-Boats that damaged and sank thousands of naval ships.
Tragically, all of the people who worked at the Boston Navy Yard were subjected to the dangers that come from being exposed to the toxic mineral, asbestos. Of course at the time nobody realized the material was hazardous, and it was used in tremendous quantities to create products such as insulation, rubber gaskets, protective clothing and much more. Workers spent a lot of their shifts around a material that was invading their respiratory system and damaging healthy tissue. People would breathe in bits of asbestos that were far too small to be seen by the human eye, and this often resulted in serious illnesses such as chronic respiratory disorders, asbestosis and mesothelioma.
The conditions that are caused by asbestos exposure are painful, difficult to treat and often fatal. Dangers associated with the mineral were not well known until the mid 1970's, so thousands of people spent a large amount of time working close to the poisonous material without realizing they were at risk.
In 1974, just as people were starting to be made aware of the dangers from asbestos, the Boston Navy Yard closed down. There was not enough busines to warrant keeping the facility running, but it would not be forgotten. All of the asbestos products had to be removed and cleaned up properly, but the former ship repair site was made into a a historical park. It currently houses two old naval vessels and is a popular tourist attraction.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.