Dahlgren Heritage Museum

Stories of how an isolated base became an intellectual center for the Navy, plus stories of the eclectic community that has grow

Saturday Noon - 4pm and other times by appointment. We plan to expand our hours effective on 4 March 2016. Our new hours will be Wednesday - Sunday 10am - 4pm.

Member of Trail Networks:
Northern Neck Artisan Trail (site #101)
Northern Neck Artisan Trail (site #125)

Professional Distinction: Demonstrations, Exhibition

The Dahlgren Heritage Museum tells a powerful story that will resonate from King George County all across the nation. It’s the story of how a remote testing range, carved out of Potomac River marshland in 1918, became what former U.S. Sen. John Warner has called “one of the crown jewels” of national defense. In telling that story, the museum will become a national model for military museums of the future.

Of course, the region’s history includes much more than its storied Navy base. Dahlgren is located at the upper end of Virginia’s Northern Neck, a rural, history-laden peninsula first explored by Captain John Smith as early as 1608 and settled by the English in the mid-17th century. Three of the country’s first five presidents were natives of the Northern Neck.

The Navy established the Dahlgren base on the Potomac River in King George County in 1918, and named it for Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren, the “Father of American Naval Ordnance.” It was the service’s new proving ground for test-firing guns destined for Navy warships. In the ensuing 90-plus years, Dahlgren has evolved to encompass a broad range of research and development, training, and military operations critical to the nation’s defense.

The Dahlgren Navy base has a long history and is an integral part of the local community and economy. It also has a national and international reputation. The work done at Dahlgren has ranged from the proof and testing of naval guns to the development of the Navy’s first computer and, more recently, to the development of Navy missiles, including the Trident submarine launched ballistic missile and the Tomahawk cruise missile, Navy missile defense systems, and advanced guns and projectiles. Dahlgren has received national recognition for its role in shooting down a satellite in 2008 and the development and demonstration of the Navy’s first rail gun in 2010.

So the Dahlgren Heritage Museum will accomplish two critical goals. It will play an important role in preserving the history of the base and the community. As a model for future Naval Heritage Centers, it also will have a national reach that will ensure that more communities will be able to tell the story of our men and women in uniform.


Dr. Robert V. Gates




3540 James Madison Parkway
King George, VA 22485

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