During the 2023 U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) Alumni Leadership Forum, Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro announced April 29 that the formerly named Buchanan House, the official quarters of the Naval Academy’s superintendent, has been renamed Farragut House.
This renaming honors Union Navy Admiral David Glasgow Farragut, a Civil War hero who became the first American naval officer to be appointed to the rank of rear admiral in 1862; vice admiral (a rank created for him by President Abraham Lincoln) in 1864; and by Congressional Act, he was commissioned admiral in 1866, the first officer of the U.S. Navy to hold that rank.
Being the son of a Spanish immigrant, Farragut is also the first Hispanic American naval officer to hold these ranks.
The decision arrived after a congressionally mandated Naming Commission, chaired by retired Navy Adm. Michelle Howard, outlined several military assets across all branches of service that required renaming due to Confederacy ties. In September 2022, Secretary of Defense Austin Lloyd accepted all recommendations from the Naming Commission and gave each service until the end of 2023 to rename their assets. The Navy has already renamed one building at the Naval Academy and two ships, USS Robert Smalls (CG 62) and USNS Marie Tharp (T-AGS 66). Additionally, street names across Department of the Navy installations will be renamed by the end of FY23.
“Admiral Farragut was a true American hero,” said Del Toro. “He had a choice during the Civil War and he chose loyalty to the Union, which required moral courage. He fearlessly left Norfolk, despite being home to him for the past 40 years. This was an incredibly pivotal point in the war, because his success in Mobile Bay hastened the end of the war. It is important we name our historic institutions after those that inspire us and will continue to do so for generations.”
Farragut was born in 1801 in Knoxville, Tennessee. He was appointed midshipman at 9 years old and saw his first sea service aboard frigate Essex in 1811. He also served with the Independence in the Mediterranean and the “Mosquito Fleet” in the West Indies. During the Civil War, he declared his allegiance to the Union and led the Union fleet at Mobile Bay. It was during the Battle of Mobile Bay, where he captured ironclad ram CSS Tennessee and gunboat CSS Selma, that he proclaimed his famous words, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!” He remained on active duty for the remainder of his life and died in 1870 at Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Kittery, Maine.
“I’m proud to have the superintendent’s residence named after our Navy’s first admiral and a Civil War hero, David Glasgow Farragut,” said U.S. Naval Academy Superintendent Sean S. Buck. “As the senior ranking naval officer during our nation’s most trying times, his dedication to our nation and its principles serves as a great example for our midshipmen. I couldn’t be happier to have his legacy memorialized so prominently on our historic Yard.”
Completed in 1909 at a cost of $77,500, the 15,000 square foot, 34 room home, designed by American architect Ernest Flagg, is rumored to be the second most visited official federal government residence in the country, behind only the White House – nearly 10,000 guests are hosted annually. The Beaux-Arts architectural structure was simply called “The Superintendent’s Quarters” until 1976, when it was named Buchanan House after the Naval Academy’s first superintendent, then Cmdr. Franklin Buchanan. Buchanan went on to resign his commission and join the Confederate States Navy and, while subsequently commanding CSS Tennessee, lost the infamous Battle of Mobile Bay to Farragut’s Union fleet.
Buck is the 41st superintendent to live in the house.