The Washington Navy Yard is the U.S. Navy's oldest shore establishment, in operation since the first decade of the 19th century. It evolved from a shipbuilding center to an ordnance plant and then to the ceremonial and administrative center for the Navy. The yard is home to the Chief of Naval Operations and is also headquarters for the Naval Historical Center and numerous naval commands. The land was purchased under an act of 23 July 1798, with two additional lots being purchased in 1801. The Washington Navy Yard was established on 2 October 1799, the date the property was transferred to the Navy. The yard was built under the direction of Benjamin Stoddert, the first Secretary of the Navy, under the supervision of the yard's first commandant, Commodore Thomas Tingey, who would serve in that capacity for 29 years.
The original boundaries that were established in 1800, along 9th and M Streets Southeast, are still marked by a white brick wall that surrounds the Navy Yard on the north and east sides. The north wall of the yard was built in 1809 along with a guard house. After the fire of 1814, Commodore Tingey recommended that the height of the eastern wall be increased to ten feet, since along with the fire, looting by the local populace took its toll.Read more: http://www.history.navy.mil/faqs/faq52-1.htm