This Neoclassical blonde-brick building in the former Charleston Navy Yard, later called the Charleston Naval Shipyard and then the Charleston Naval Base, sits alongside the Cooper River in North Charleston. The Charleston Naval Base operated from 1903 until 1996. The power house, also called the central power plant, was built in 1909 and is the most prominent and architecturally captivating building in this industrial district.
In 2013 the City of North Charleston relinquished ownership of the power house to the South Carolina Department of Commerce as part of its Palmetto Railways project. Palmetto Railways hopes to create an intermodal terminal to serve the South Carolina Ports Authority at the base similar to its current railway from BP Chemical to Nucor Steel in Berkeley County.
The future of the power house remains uncertain as Palmetto Railways continues to make plans along the waterfront of the former Navy Yard. However, it will remain standing, likely converted into administrative offices for Palmetto railways.
One thing for certain is that it will not be torn down. For now the power house, along with other buildings in the Charleston Navy Yard, currently sit abandoned as a ghostly reminder of the submariners who were trained here through the late twentieth century.
The Navy Yard Power House is listed in the National Register as part of the Charleston Navy Yard Historic District:
The Charleston Navy Yard Historic District is nationally significant as the core collection of historic resources illustrating the establishment, growth, and development of the Charleston Navy Yard (later the Charleston Naval Shipyard and still later the Naval Base Charleston) from 1903 through 1945. The historic district includes 57 contributing historic buildings, structures, and objects associated with the Charleston Navy Yard, which served the United States Navy from 1903 to 1996. The historic resources in the district include machine shops, storage facilities, a power house, drydocks, piers, administrative facilities, and other buildings and structures related to ship construction and repair.
Properties contributing to the significance of the district fall into four time periods and associated forms of architectural styles: the Neo-Classical style employed during the establishment and early years of the installation from 1903 to ca. 1910; the Moderne industrial form from the 1910s to the end of World War I; the Moderne construction of federal works projects from the inter-war period; and the largely utilitarian forms prevalent from the emergency period of the late 1930s through the end of World War II.
The largest number of resources in the district relate to the shipyard’s dramatic development just before and throughout World War II, a period when the Charleston Navy Yard experienced its most significant period of expansion. The primary role of the shipyard during World War II was to build and repair destroyers and destroyer escorts. The vessels constructed at the shipyard are well-documented for their contributions to the eventual Allied victory. At the end of war, the Navy drastically reduced the workload at the Charleston Navy Yard, but the yard was an active installation throughout the Cold War and until 1996.
Interior Pictures of the Navy Yard Power House