In the early 1880s, the federal government began to purchase land in the Port Royal area for a permanent naval base. Plans for such a base had long been the dream of Robert Smalls, the U.S. Congressman from Beaufort (see Gunboat "Planter" and Robert Smalls). In 1891, the Navy started construction of a wooden dry dock large enough to serve the large vessels of the "new" Navy. Work on the dry dock was delayed by the devastation of the hurricane of 1893, but by the summer of 1895, shortly after this photograph was made, it was completed. For eight years, until the naval facilities in Charleston were expanded in the early 20th century, Parris Island and this dry dock were among the U.S. Navy's principal repair facilities on the East Coast.
Courtesy of the United States Marine Corps Parris Island Museum.