Thursday, August 13, 2009

Drydock No. 1

On this day in 1872, work commenced on Mare Island’s first permanent drydock. It would take nearly 20 years to complete the massive stone drydock, the first of four that eventually served the Shipyard. Drydock #1 was lined with enormous granite blocks, quarried near Rocklin, California, and brought to Mare Island by rail and barge. The excavation of the dock was done with horse drawn scrapers, ox carts, and wheelbarrows.

Prior to the construction of this drydock, ship repairs at Mare Island were done in a floating sectional dock, built in New York and brought around the Horn to California in the early 1850s. Construction of the permanent drydock forced the removal - and eventual destruction - of this original historic floating drydock.

On Wednesday, August 14, 1872, the Vallejo Evening Chronicle offered this account of the beginning of construction of drydock #1:

“The proposed location of the stone dry docks will necessitate the moving of the sectional docks down stream several hundred feet. Men are now engaged in drawing the timbers out of the boom, and storing them away in the timber shed.”

“The government dredger will be put to work in a few days scooping the mud from the bottom of the basin.”

“Ground was broken on Tuesday [August 13] for the dry docks, under Foreman Sargent. The work thereupon is not to be done by contract, as at one time reported.”

The final paragraph of the article shows that some things never change:

“All of the men in the Construction Department will probably lose five days this month on account of the appropriations being overrun.”

The original hand-drawn plans for drydock # 1 are in the collection of the Vallejo Naval and Historical Museum.

Below left: Sectional Drydock
Below right: Drydock #1 in 2005


  1. Thanks, Jim. We have heard about the Rocklin connection when we rode AMTRAK with a railroad museum docent on board.

  2. Are there any records/pictures of the floating dry dock ABSD-7 back in 1945 and 1946?