Located on Wallabout Bay, in Brooklyn, where during the American Revolution thousands of prisoners died aboard British prison ships, the Navy Yard was established by the federal government in 1801. It was the site for the construction of Robert Fulton's steam frigate, the Fulton, launched in 1815, as well as of other historic vessels. The Navy Yard was also the location of the US Naval Lyceum, organized in 1833, which maintained a reading room, library, and museum, and published a navy magazine. During the Civil War, the Yard expanded its operations and its employees numbered about 6,000.
The Navy Yard continued in operation through the first and second world wars, but was decommissioned in 1966. Within a decade, it had become an area of private manufacturing and commercial activity.