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NPS History

Learn about the history of the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California. For more about our campus history, explore Special Collections & Archives at the Dudley Knox Library.

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Establishing the Naval Postgraduate School

On June 9, 1909, less than four months after the completion of the record-setting world cruise of the Great White Fleet, Secretary of the Navy George von L. Meyer signed General Order No. 27, establishing a school of marine engineering at Annapolis. This small program, consisting of 10 officer students and two Navy instructors, would later become today's Naval Postgraduate School.

officers in front of Naval Postgraduate School in Annapolis 1903

The idea for a graduate education program for naval officers first emerged in the late 19th century but, initially, the concept found few advocates. With Marconi's invention of the "wireless" in 1901, the Wright brothers' flight in 1903, and the global trek of the steam-powered White Fleet from 1907 to 1909, this concept gradually gained support.

The Navy Secretary's order placed the fledgling school under the direction of the Naval Academy superintendent, who was charged with "securing ample use of the educational plant of the Naval Academy to students and instructors of the school without interfering with the instruction of midshipmen." This translated into two attic rooms being set aside for classroom and laboratory space for the school.

Within three years, Meyer agreed to a proposal to change the school. On October 31, 1912, he signed Navy General Order No. 233, which renamed the school the Postgraduate Department of the Naval Academy. The order established courses of study in ordnance and gunnery, electrical engineering radio telegraphy, naval construction, and civil engineering as well as continuing the original program in marine engineering. With the additional curricula, enrollment increased to 25.

Moving from Annapolis to Monterey

During World War II, Fleet Admiral Ernest King, chief of naval operations and commander-in-chief of both the Atlantic and Pacific fleets, established a commission to review the role of graduate education in the Navy. By the end of the war, it was apparent that the facilities of the Naval Postgraduate School at the Naval Academy at Annapolis, were insufficient for the Navy’s future needs.

In 1945, Congress passed legislation to make the school a fully-accredited, degree-granting graduate institution. Two years later, Congress authorized the purchase of the Hotel Del Monte and 627 acres of surrounding land for use as an independent campus for the school.

In December 1951, the Postgraduate School moved across the nation, establishing its current campus in Monterey, California. The coast-to-coast move involved 500 students, about 100 faculty and staff and thousands of pounds of books and research equipment. Rear Adm. Ernest Edward Herrmann supervised the move that pumped new vitality into the Navy's efforts to advance naval science and technology.

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NPS relocates to the site of the Hotel Del Monte

1926 Hotel Del Monte

Before World War II one of the finest luxury hotels in North America, the Hotel Del Monte, occupied the present site of the Naval Postgraduate School. From the time railroad pioneer Charles Crocker first opened the hotel in June 1880, it was an immediate success. Fire completely destroyed the hotel in 1887, but the second Hotel Del Monte rose promptly at the same location and was more splendid than its predecessor. In the early morning of September 27, 1924, fire again devastated the central wooden structure of the hotel. Reconstruction was again immediate and the more modern building continued to make the Del Monte one of the showplaces of the world.

By this time, Samuel F.B. Morse, the president of the Del Monte Properties Company, had acquired the hotel and began developing the Del Monte as a “sports empire” where guests could enjoy playing golf, polo, tennis, swimming, yachting and deep-sea fishing. Coined “the most elegant seaside resort in the world,” the hotel played host to world leaders, dignitaries, American presidents, film stars and famous artists until 1942, when it was taken over by the U.S. Navy and used as a pre-flight school for aviators.

The main building of the former Hotel Del Monte - now named Herrmann Hall - houses the principal administrative offices of the Naval Postgraduate School. The academic quadrangle was built incrementally after the school officially opened for business in 1951. The most recent additions include the renovation of the library (more than doubling its usable space), the new academic building - Glasgow Hall, and the new Mechanical Engineering Building. In 2006, a $35 million renovation of the two wings of Herrmann Hall was completed, providing 140 new Bachelor Officers’ Quarters (BOQ) rooms for the school’s international officers and their families for temporary residency while they establish themselves in permanent living facilities. In 2009, the year the Naval Postgraduate School celebrated its centennial anniversary, Herrmann Hall began a series of renovations and refurbishments, restoring the building’s early 20th century charm in a tribute to its historic past.

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Del Monte Goes to War

The Navy used Hotel Del Monte on an emergency basis during World War II. It purchased the hotel after the war and moved the Naval Postgraduate School from its cramped facilities at Annapolis, MD to Monterey.

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Del Monte Pre Flight School History

The Navy's first wartime command at Hotel Del Monte was established in February 1943. Called the Del Monte Pre-Flight School, it graduated nearly 5,000 aviation cadets in 11 months before it was decommissioned in January 1944.

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Changes to NPS Campus site over time

Aerial photos from 1920 to 2001

From top to bottom:

  • 1920: the famed Hotel Del Monte
  • 1926: artist's rendering of the new Spanish Revival style hotel, reconstructed after a major fire
  • 1953: the new NPS campus, under construction
  • 2001: Naval Postgraduate School

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Contact us

Special Collections
(831) 656-3346
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