Many stayed away, said some oldtimers, because they could not bear the emotion of the occasion.
The yard received many citations over the years for what came to be known throughout the Navy as the ``Philly finish,'' quality shipbuilding on budget and under deadline.
There was frequent mention of the legendary ships among the more than 150 built there, but the speakers inevitably returned to the 19 generations of workers who toiled at the original Federal Street yard and later at League Island, its present location at the foot of South Broad Street.
Implicit in the remarks of shipyard controller Dennis A. Cribben and other speakers was that times had changed, and not necessarily for the better.
The yard, they said, symbolized a city and a nation that grew strong and prosperous through dedication to duty and hard work.
``Life at the shipyard was more than a job. It was a way of life,'' said Cribben, who grew up in the shadow of the yard and worked there 31 years.
Out in the crowd stood Vincent Lenge, 77, of Ridley Park, Delaware County.
``I never thought this day was going to come,'' said Lenge, who worked at the yard for 47 1/2 years before retiring in 1990.
He recalled helping slide the battleships USS New Jersey and Wisconsin down massive shipways during World War II, and the recent overhaul of aircraft carriers that bought a few more years of life for the yard as the Navy's mission began to change with the end of the Cold War.
William Cassidy, a deputy assistant secretary of the Navy, praised ``the unique spirit of this shipyard and the dedicated and patriotic people who worked here.''
``Those who work here in the future will be skilled and patriotic as well,'' he said. ``This shipyard will once again become the economic engine it once was.''
That is the hope of city officials who have not been able to stanch the decades-long hemmorhaging of jobs from Philadelphia, but such a future is not assured.
With the closing of the yard, the last 500 workers were laid off. More than 50,000 once worked around the clock there, and 7,000 still worked as recently as 1990.
Capt. Robert J. Hogan becomes ``host commander'' of the 300-acre yard and former 800-acre naval base next door, which closed last year. The overall facility has been renamed the Philadelphia Naval Business Center.
Mothballed ships will remain anchored there, and a foundry and propeller shop - still considered vital to national security - and several other operations employing a total of about 2,000 people will remain open.
But the center needs a major shipbuilder or another primary tenant, and none has been found in the year since the botched effort to bring German shipbuilder Meyer Werft to town.
At the end of the ceremony, the flag and log were presented to the Independence Maritime Museum, where they will be displayed.
HIGHLIGHTS AT YARD, IN WAR AND PEACE Some milestones in the 195-year history of the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.
1801: Nation's first government-owned shipyard opens on the Delaware, at Federal Street.
1837: A crowd of 100,000 watches the launching of the 120-gun USS Pennsylvania, one of the world's largest at the time.
1841: Launching of the side-wheeler steamer Mississippi, which served as Commodore Matthew C. Perry's flagship on his historic 1852 expedition to Japan.
1851: World's first floating drydock built.
1861: Steam-screw sloop Tuscarora built in record three months.
1917: USS Henderson, Navy's first attack transport, launched in World War I.
1939: The Navy's call to arms on the eve of World War II begins a six-year buildup during which 53 warships are launched and 1,218 repaired.
1967: Navy first considers closing yard.
1970: The yard's new shipbuilding operation ends with the launch of the amphibious command ship Blue Ridge.
1980: A keel-up reconstruction of the USS Saratoga begins 15-year project to overhaul five aircraft carriers.
1995: The USS John F. Kennedy, last of the carriers, is completed.