WASHINGTON (AP) — Officials are renaming the Washington Navy Yard building where a gunman fatally shot 12 people in September before he was killed by police.
Navy Vice Adm. William Hilarides said in an email to employees on Tuesday that Building 197 will be named after Joshua Humphreys, who designed the Navy's first six frigates. Hilarides said officials are also "exploring renumbering the building."
"I feel this is a critical step towards establishing a new sense of place as we return to the Navy Yard next year," Hilarides wrote of the change to the building's name and number.
Officials are currently working on renovations to the building, the headquarters for Naval Sea Systems Command, and its approximately 3,000 employees have not worked in the building since the shooting.
Hilarides, the head of Naval Sea Systems Command, said officials have already started the process of naming the five-story red brick building after Humphreys, who was born in Pennsylvania in 1751. He wrote that the fact that one of Humphreys' ships, the USS Constitution, is still floating more than 200 years after it was built shows Humphreys' shipbuilding skill. The ship, called "Old Ironsides," is now on display in Charlestown, Mass.
"Like Humphreys' frigates, NAVSEA is resilient and still afloat in spite of the events of 16 Sept.," Hilarides wrote, using the Navy's acronym for Naval Sea Systems Command. "The name will be a testament to the incredible talent and skill of the entire NAVSEA workforce."
Douglass Gaarde, whose wife Kathleen was killed in the shooting, said in an email Wednesday he believed renaming the building is "a good idea" because the name "Building 197" will always be associated with the shooting.
The Navy has said that when the building re-opens in 2015 it will include a remembrance area as well as a new visitors' entrance, new carpeting and furniture and renovations to the cafeteria. A $44 million contract for the work was awarded Friday to CH2M Hill Constructors Inc. of Englewood, Colo.
Follow Jessica Gresko at http://twitter.com/jessicagresko