For many years the facility served as a center for manufacturing and maintaining torpedoes; it also served as a munitions storage area for a period of time. During World War II, the manufacturing of torpedoes resumed in full swing and the facility produced Mark XIV submarine torpedoes and Mark III aircraft torpedoes. Over the course of time more buildings were added and in all there were 11 buildings at the height of production.
At the end of World War II in June 1945 production of torpedoes ceased since the demand was no longer in place. The building sat stagnant until the U.S. government decided it was a good location for storage.
Over the years the Smithsonian institute stowed important artifacts, including dinosaur bones, and Congressional papers were also placed into storage at this site. Even the U.S. military housed important items which were placed in sealed vaults and stored at the facility for a time.
The building was sold in 1969 to the City of Alexandria and plans began to decide on a different use for the building. Finally, after some deliberation, it was decided the building would be renovated to become working studio space for local artists.
Later that year, in September, the plan was brought to fruition, the facility was re-opened which included open invitation to the public. There were still many renovations which needed to be done, such as reliable heat and air conditioning systems, and this didn't happen for many years.
It was in 1982-83 the building underwent its second renovation; this time it was a major one which including gutting the facility, installing the heating/cooling systems and an addition of a second floor.
The hard blood, sweat and tears of those dedicated to the project paid off. Today the former torpedo factory has become a dynamic artists' center and thriving art community; it is also a popular tourist stop. Each year visitors from near and far come and enjoy what the building has to offer.
The history of the Torpedo Factory Art Center is an interesting one and a neat place to stop by and visit if you're in Old Town. Its got such a pretty location too, right on the Potomac Riverfront.