It’s time for the fall edition of our Yard Scavenger Hunt! With thousands of intriguing artifacts scattered throughout this 338-acre area, you could spend weeks trying to locate all of them. We’ve put together a scavenger hunt you can enjoy in a couple of hours. So grab your phone and your curiosity, and let's go exploring!
Naval Academy Chapel
You may have been here before. If so, you’ve likely seen the awe-inspiring 15,688 pipe organ and the incredible stained glass windows created by Tiffany Studios, New York. However, you probably haven’t found these treasures yet….
St. Andrew’s Chapel: Head downstairs beneath the nave of the main chapel to discover this delightful space. Built in 1940 and refreshed in 1986, it is the perfect place for smaller weddings, funerals, and baptisms. See if you can find a very special baptismal font crafted of wood that was salvaged from the oak beam timbers and a top sheet-bitt from the USS Constitution, more famously known as “Old Ironsides.” It continues to provide new life to patrons of the chapel. As you wander down the aisle, take in the beautiful stained glass stories of the saints' lives and the unique designs that reflect pertinent water themes.
John Paul Jones Crypt: Next, you can visit the famous John Paul Jones Crypt. Even if you’ve seen the crypt, you’ll find there’s more than meets the eye in this somber underground space. It brings you directly to the solemnity and dark waters of a burial at sea with dramatic black and white marble evoking powerful waves. The crypt itself is a beautiful homage to John Paul Jones, and holds many priceless relics from U.S. naval history. On the outer hallway, you can find a certificate that was signed by George Washington and inducting Jones into the Society of the Cincinnati, which is the oldest veterans’ organization in the country. You’ll also find Jones’ captain’s commission, with a John Hancock that was actually THE John Hancock’s. Don't forget to find two of Jones’ swords, one of which was ceremoniously presented to him by King Louis XVI. This crypt is a mini museum.
Naval Academy Museum
Speaking of museums, you won’t want to miss the Naval Academy Museum. As you leave the crypt and head that way, make sure to get a good look at the Herndon Monument, the scene of that crazy scramble to the top at the end of plebe year. See if you can learn how high plebes must go to replace the dixie cup with an upperclassman’s cover. Then, head left for more treasures….
Preble Hall, which is home to the Naval Academy Museum, is a scavenger hunt unto itself. In fact, one of our recent posts walks you through some of the fascinating exhibits in this beautiful historical building. Here are some must-sees:
Worden Sword: If you’re looking for a fascinating piece of forgotten history, find the Worden sword. This gorgeously wrought sword was made by Tiffany Studios and presented by the state of New York to its hometown hero, Rear Admiral John Worden, for his service and heroism in the Civil War. Worden’s family donated the sword to the Yard in 1912—and then in 1931 it vanished. Just as mysteriously as it disappeared, the sword resurfaced when the FBI was investigating several Antiques Roadshow appraisers in 2004. The sword regained its rightful place in the museum 73 years after it was taken. See how the hilt depicts two miniature scenes from the deadly battle of the USS Monitor and CSS Virginia. Both the belt buckle and scabbard are gold plated.
Dockyard Ship Models: For more intricately detailed relics, look for the museum’s vast collection of ship models. These were likely built along with the actual ships as decorative gifts for wealthy patrons and high ranking officers. English dockyard models are painstakingly built to a scale of 1:48. You can find John Paul Jones’ USS Bonhomme Richard, which defeated the British Serapis and HMS Shannon.
Tripoli Monument: After you’ve satisfied your curiosity at the museum, you can seek out one of the oldest military monuments in the country, and the first ever raised for the U.S. Navy—the Tripoli Monument. You’ll find it in a courtyard behind the museum, where it was erected to honor six naval officers killed in the war against Tripoli, one of the Barbary states in North Africa. It’s perfectly suited to complement Preble Hall, since the museum’s namesake was a prominent naval officer in the first Barbary War, where he led his troops against the city of Tripoli.
This large and exquisite monument was constructed of 52 blocks of Italian Carrara marble that came from the same mines that Michaelangelo used. Originally set in the Washington Navy Yard in 1806, the monument was desecrated in 1814. It was then restored and moved to the U.S. Capitol’s west terrace in 1830. The Yard received it in 1860.
The monument is full of intriguing symbolism. Find the eagle that commands the top with the inscription “E pluribus unum,” or “From many, one,” which is the same phrase inscribed on our pennies. Try this optical challenge as well: Look closely at the figures in the monument. Since it has undergone change over the years, some people believe that they were moved at one point. If you follow their gazes and check their positioning, you might agree.
See if you can locate other important figures, like the Native American woman who represents our young nation and the angel-inspired statue next to the monument who represents “fame.” One young figure simply symbolizes “history.” A man also carries the winged staff of Mercury (which is now gone) to symbolize “commerce” to honor the fallen heroes’ part in protecting free trade. The rostral column has ships that sail right through it; this is an ancient Roman technique that reveres naval heroes. All thoughtfully designed to celebrate these men, the symbols are both beautiful and thought-provoking.
There is so much to explore here, and we have not yet begun to scratch the surface of the treasures on the Yard. Come visit often to see what you can uncover and let us know what you find! From the Naval Academy Cemetery, to the USNA Airpark, to the USNA Robert Crown Sailing Center, there are so many more places to discover. Remember to download a map prior to visiting the Yard! We are proud to support the midshipmen with all of our proceeds from visits, tours, dining, and shopping on the Yard. Your visit gives directly back to the Brigade. Enjoy the hunt!