The concrete walls in front of you are all that is left of the once-bustling Trigg Shipyard. The yard employed 2,000 men and was comprised of 16 large industrial buildings on a 25-acre site with 20 acres in water, dock, and boat basin. In 1898, Richmond business man William R. Trigg, already a successful and well-known fabricator of locomotives, announced several contracts for steam torpedo boats and destroyers for the U.S. Navy.
Torpedo boats were those used to attack larger ships, first introduced in the Civil War. Destroyers, short for "Torpedo Boat Destroyers", were introduced shortly thereafter to attack the torpedo boats. On October 31, 1899, President William McKinley, his cabinet, and 30,000 observers attended the launch of the first boat, the USS Shubrick. The yard built torpedo boats, destroyers, steamers, cruisers, tugboats, dredges, and cutters until 1903 when William Trigg declared bankruptcy.
The last ship to be built, the USS Galveston, was unfinished and eventually transported to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard for completion.
Ships were laid down in a dry dock or "caisson". The photo on the right (looking west) shows two of the largest and well-known ships, the USS Decatur and the USS Dale, being fitted out in 1900. The stadium-like structure could be emptied of water to create a protected area for construction. Opening the gate filled the caisson with water to allow ship launching into the canal. The buildings in the background supported the ship building operations.
The place in which you are now standing was once under water in a "laying up basin," an area for ships to move in and out of the caisson. The wall remnants before you (photo left) formed the ship lock shown on the map below. In the woods west of where you are standing is a long, vertical depression which may be the only remaining evidence of the huge caisson.
Above: The retaining walls as they exist today, from east side facing southwest. (Courtesy of RRPDC)
Below: Trigg Shipyard, circa 1900 (Courtesy of the Library of Virginia)
Above: USS Decatur and USS Dale fitting out circa 1902. (Courtesy of the Library of Virginia)
Right: USS Dale in 1900. (Courtesy of Navsource.org)