Massachusetts’ Fore River is a twisting 7½-mile tidal estuary that enters island-filled Boston Harbor from the south. On its Quincy shore in 1884, Thomas A. Watson (former assistant to Alexander Graham Bell) founded the Fore River Engine Company which, as Fore River Shipbuilding Company in April 1899, laid down the 400-ton Lawrence and Macdonough (Destroyers Nos. 8 and 9).

In 1913, Bethlehem Steel purchased the yard, added an annex in nearby Squantum and, through September 1919, commenced production of 71 flush-deck destroyers—the largest single builder of these classes.

During a decade-long pause in US Navy destroyer production that followed, the yard turned to building larger ships beginning with aircraft carrier Lexington (CV 2) and later including battleship Massachusetts (BB 59).

When destroyer production resumed in the thirties, Fore River was selected to build the lead ships of three classes—Farragut in 1932, Gridley in 1935 and Benson in 1938. During this time, however, it launched only two other destroyers plus four 1,850-ton leaders.

Nor were destroyers a focus of production during World War II, when the yard surpassed all other American shipyards in tonnage delivered, including a replacement Lexington, three more Essex-class aircraft carriers (plus one delivered after the war), seven light cruisers (plus one after the war) and seven Baltimore-class heavy cruisers (with, at war’s end, seven more plus two advanced Des Moines-class ships, Des Moines and Salem, in progress) along with 18 destroyer escorts and 46 LSTs. Amid this outpouring, in 1941–2, Quincy fit in three pairs of repeat Bensons (Bristols), demonstrating its capability by launching em>Nields in a very fast 108 days. These six ships proved to be the yard’s only wartime destroyer deliveries, however—four Gearings, beginning with Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., were laid down in 1945 but not launched until after the war.

Postwar, Bethlehem continued construction for the US Navy through 1962 including one more Gearing-class DDE, three DLGs, seven destroyers (including five of the Forrest Sherman-class) and the yard’s last major warships before closing, the nuclear-powered Long Beach and Bainbridge. General Dynamics then bought the facility, modernized it and resumed construction. Highlights were ten large liquified natural gas (LNG) tankers completed in 1977–80, but the yard closed permanently in 1986.

In 1994, Salem returned to Quincy and today is the centerpiece of the United States Naval Shipbuilding Museum at the shipyard site, which retains some of its signature skyline and also serves as a staging area for the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority.