New York Shipbuilding, once world’s largest shipbuilder, was located not in New York but at Camden, New Jersey, just north of the east end of today’s Walt Whitman Bridge. It was founded in 1898 by Henry Morse, who left the presidency of the Wilmington, Delaware shipbuilder Harlan & Hollingsworth to establish a new yard at Staten Island, New York, but then chose a site across the Delaware River from Philadelphia because of the availability of land, transportation and qualified manpower.

“New York Ship” began production in 1900 using then-modern manufacturing methods and facilities, including covered ways for all-weather operation. After Morse died in 1903, the yard changed ownership while growing dramatically and building communities to house its work force nearby. Yorkship Village, today’s Fairview, New Jersey, is an example recognized in 1998 as “the best of 55 housing developments undertaken by the U.S. federal housing corporations during World War I.”

In its early years, New York Shipbuilding built a wide range of types, from lightships to car ferrys to subchasers. For the US Navy, it completed battleships Michigan, Utah, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Idaho plus battlecruiser Saratoga, which was completed as an aircraft carrier (CV 3). Its first destroyer was Torpedo Boat Destroyer No. 19, USS Preston, delivered in 1909. Four more “flivvers” followed; then four 1,000-tonners and finally 30 flush deckers, the last of which was delivered in 1920. In 1933, the yard laid down four Porter-class 1,850-ton leaders, its only other destroyers.

After World War I, the yard struggled and in 1925 was resold to a subsidiary of engineering firm Brown Boveri. Ramping up its capacity again as World War II approached with a $20 million grant from the Navy, New York Ship returned to producing heavy combatant ships and gained a reputation for delivering them ahead of schedule. Its labor force reached a peak of more than 30,000 men and women. Production before and during World War II included battleship South Dakota plus the 12-inch gun cruisers Alaska and Hawaii, multiple heavy and light cruisers, light aircraft carriers, and 148 landing craft.

After the war through 1967, New York Shipbuilding continued deliveries to the Navy including four attack submarines, aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk and frigate Norfolk, plus several guided missile cruisers and destroyers and the nuclear-powered passenger and cargo ship Savannah. Military contracts eventually grew scarce, however, and the yard closed in 1967.

In 1971, the site was reopened as the Broadway Terminal operated by the South Jersey Port Corporation, which today handles more than 2 million tons of cargo per year, one of the United States’ largest ports. Portions of its waterfront can still handle deep draft ships including battleship New Jersey which, in 2001, received a $7.2 million renovation before opening as a museum ship.

Sources: New York Shipbuilding Company Historical Site; Yorkship/.