Historic Watch Box

NAVFAC Washington

Washington, DC

Cultural Government

Watch Box exterior with historic cannons

Originally constructed in the 1840s, this guard house was the "check-in" location for all visitors to the Washington Navy Yard, including President Lincoln who frequently traveled to the base during the Civil War. As a result, the small structure is historically significant as one of the last places where the President made an official call only days before his assassination.

In 1906, the structure was moved to Indian Head, Maryland, where it remained for over 100 years. When the Watchbox was identified as an important contributing element to the Washington Navy Yard Historic District, NAVFAC arranged for its return and restoration.

The delicate structure was transported by barge down the Potomac River and sensitively relocated near its original site, across from the Main Parade Ground. Our preservation team restored the porch canopy with its columns and returned the Watchbox to its original design to help educate the public about the important role the Washington Navy Yard played during the Civil War.

Awards & Honors

  1. Design Excellence in Historic Resources

    AIA Washington, DC

Watchbox Roll and Restoration

As part of the move from Indian Head back to the Washington Navy Yard, the 11-ton Watchbox was transported upriver on a construction barge and then moved with motorized wheel sets from the docks to its new foundations. While the technology of moving a building is much more sophisticated today, the route was very similar to the one taken in 1909.

Historic Preservation

The successful team of historic preservation architects from EYP Architecture and Engineering and Summit Construction and Environmental Service spent months on each small detail, which in the end, resulted in this Navy Yard gem.

Igor Boras, Engineering Branch Senior Construction Manager, Public Works Department Washington

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