Architect Pierre L’Enfant envisioned a memorial in the capital to “celebrate the first rise of the Navy and consecrate its progress and achievements.” However, it never took shape until 1980 when Rear Admiral William Thompson, USN (Ret.) received blessing from Congress to construct a Navy Memorial on public land.
The Memorial Foundation, formed in 1977 by Admiral Arleigh Burke and other Navy colleagues, selected Market Square – across the street from the National Archives – as the site of the memorial. Construction started in 1985 and was officially dedicated on October 13, 1987, the 212th birthday of the US Navy.
There are two parts to the Navy Memorial, the public plaza and the Naval Heritage Center, which occupies one of the two buildings that flank the memorial. Just inside the entrance is a sculpture by Stanley Bleifeld, The Homecoming. The Center caters to building personal links between naval service personnel, both veterans and active-duty, and their families.