MISSION #7 – Philadelphia Naval Shipyard

LOCATION: Philadelphia, PA

So its be a little awhile since I have posted anything to Urban Setting. I have been on a number of explorations recently, but I haven’t had time to update the site. So to lighten my work load….here is the next installment.



So to cut back on some time of writing my own version of the history of PNSY…here is a lil segment I took from wikipedia.

The Philadelphia Naval Business Center, formerly known as the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard and Philadelphia Navy Yard, was the first naval shipyard of the United States. The U.S. Navy reduced its activities there in the 1990s, and ended most of them on 30 September 1995. Soon after, the west end of the site became a commercial shipyard, currently called the Aker Philadelphia Shipyard.

Presently, Navy activities there include the Naval Surface Warfare Center Ship Systems Engineering Station and the Naval Inactive Ship Maintenance Facility (NIMSF), which stores decommissioned and mothballed warships and auxiliary naval vessels.

You can find more info on the PNSY at this link (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philadelphia_Naval_Shipyard)

Now onto my story….


I was recently back home in Pennsylvania for mothers day. I was discussing this site with family and friends and was told about the PNSY. I never knew of the facility and was really interested to learn more and possibly explore the area. A family member was going to the PNSY to visit a company that is currently operating out of the buildings. I was invited along and was very excited to see the area. I had no idea what to expect. I did some slight research, but for the most part I figured I would learn about the place as I was exploring.

The day came to head to Philly. She packed her resume….I packed my camera. We took the hour drive and arrived at PNSY. We approached the gate and the security guard let us through.

At first glance all that could be seen was huge naval ships that didn’t seem to have been in use for years.

I immediately thought those would be my first target, but I noticed security and construction workers all along most of the entrances to the ships.

We parked our car and as she went to her interview I went to explore.

I only had an hour  too explore a massive shipping yard. I had no idea where to start. Most of the buildings that surrounded me where in use by Free People and Urban Outfitters.

This company made PNSY almost look like a college campus. There seemed to be an endless amount of fashionable twenty somethings running around. This was somewhat comforting because I was able to blend in fairly easily. Construction workers viewed as just one of those kids walking to their car or heading to work. Anything that makes me disappear is a plus when I’m bout to break into somewhere were I know Im not allowed to be.

I decided that if I got caught….I would play the role of a location scout for Urban Outfitters for a future photo shoot. Somewhat fashionable clothing….check. Twentyish something appearence…check. Camera….check. It could work!

I found a building in the distance from Urban Outfitters which seemed to be somewhat unkept. The windows were broken and the grass outside was long and seemed to be forgotten.

I walked in front of a huge sliding door and gave it a try. It slid open fairly easily. Good thing too because only about twenty some feet from me were workers in hard hats doing something to something. I slipped into the building and was surprised to see a fairly clean beautifully white building.

It wasnt currently in use….but wasn’t totally forgotten.

The building was almost completely white. There were some hints of greys and yellows, which added a nice contrast. The building was a giant inspiration for black and photography.

The sun shining into the window made the white walls even more beautiful. The entire building just had this sense on happiness and relaxation. I felt content just walking around the walls and exploring the building in silence.

I took one more look around and left the building. I shut the door and looked for my next location. I walked down a street and found another building which had the tell tale signs of not being in use….broken windows, dirty, locks on the door, keep out signs, boarded windows…looks like I got a winner.

The building wasn’t in use, but the grounds definitely were. I walked around the building as if I were heading to my car. Construction workers continually passing me. I got a few looks but for the most part I was ignored. As workers passed I kept checking windows and doors. I was not having a lot of luck. I walked around the building and found a somewhat hidden inlet.

I explored that area a bit….hopefully finding an entrance.

I found a ladder and used it to climb to the roof….

….while on the roof I got a call. The interview was over and it was time to leave. I began to head back to the car disappointed that I was unable to get inside of “Building 18”. I got back to the car and was pleased to hear that she got a second interview.

Good for her! Good for me!

A few days passed and we made the trip back to PNSY. I was determined to find my way into “Building 18”. Once again she went to her interview and I went to explore. I headed straight to the front door. I was afraid to use it last time because of the traffic out front of the building. Today I just waited outside til I was clear and turned the handle. To my surprise the door opened and just like that I was inside.

“Why did I not try that last time?!?!” I said to myself quietly frustrated. I quickly got over it and moved on. I was once again on a time limit as well.

This building was huge! It was a huge contrast to the building I explored my first trip to PNSY. It reminded me of a giant machine.

The interior was filled with massive rooms. The rooms were wrapped in colorful piping. In the middle of a room was a cross in the ground which was filled with water. The entire building couldn’t be explained. It had this sense of destruction and power. I felt the building was alive and I was just devoured. I felt small. I felt like I didn’t have enough in me to properly explore every inch. I did my best to prove myself wrong.

This building just seemed to be room after room of dusty metal, which just seemed to want to move. It appeared as a giant machine rusted stiff.

The one sign my natural life from the massive creature came from a plant which broke through the concrete.

The building was lit, but the sun was well blocked. Some how this plant was able to sprout from the concrete. The leaves were a beautiful green. The lone plant was thriving. There could be some witty saying and thoughtful comparison to the plant thriving in a place like this….but its to late and you can think of your own. If you have an idea send it to me!

I spent a good amount of time wandering the building. I got the photos and experiences I was searching for. I felt my phone buzz. It seemed the interview was over. I head back to the car satisfied.

Thank you PNSY.

Til next time….thanks for reading.


6 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Great post! Love the side story to your exploration. This photography may be your best to date. Strong compositions. Beautiful line and color (or lack of it) Awesome. Looking forward to the next one. You’ve got it buddy…the eye and the heart. Be safe out there.

Comment by Lifelong Artist

i love it too…I work for UO and woudl be happy to take you on more of a tour and show you elements we save when we do construction and all that. It is amazing here.
Sue Otto
Creative Director

Comment by susan otto

thanks sue! ill have to take you up on that offer. ill be in touch next time im in philly.

Comment by Timothy Becker

There is something so fascinating about an industrial site that has been abandoned. It is like it is haunted; the tremendous amounts of energy that were part of it when humans were there . . . somehow remains.

I know your father from the Yocum Institute For Arts Education.

Great work!

Joel Gori

Comment by Joel gori

[…] MISSION #7 – Philadelphia Naval Shipyard […]


my dad used to work there and would take me when i was little….i always wanted to get one of those boats and sail the seas

Comment by aaron jamison

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