Willamette Iron and Steel Yard
Located in Portland, Oregon, Willamette Iron and Steel Yard was originally founded as Willamette Iron Works directly following the Civil War in 1865. Operations continued as a small naval shipbuilding operation throughout the second half of the 19th century until slowly to focusing on general repairs rather than vessel construction. WWII again ignited the shipbuilding industry and Willamette Iron and Steel Yard established itself as a force in the industry. Of particular importance was the yard's ability to adapt new military technologies into its vessel construction including minesweepers, naval auxiliaries, patrol craft, submarine-chasers, and non-self-propelled lighters.
Operations continued after the war, with Willamette Iron and Steel Yard maintaining itself as predominantly a repair yard, with occasional small construction projects. The firm closed in the mid-1990's after operating continually since 1904 under the name Willamette Iron and Steel Works.
The Willamette Iron and Steel yard and other Portland shipbuilding operations formed and important part of the Portland economy. These shipyards were known to have large immigrant workforces, particularly those in the Portland area, in which there were a tremendous amount of German immigrants. These were hardworking men and women who had risked their lives for a piece of the American dream, in a country where they could achieve their aspirations through their dedication to work ethic and character. They not only risked their lives coming to the United States, but all workers of shipyards risked their lives every day in a dangerous and demanding environment.
Each day workers in these facilities encountered not only the dangers of the modern industrial complex, but also those that they may have never noticed that are causing health problems to this day. Dangerous toxins and carcinogens pervaded nearly every aspect of the vessel building industry. Among these carcinogens is asbestos, which was used extensively in many facets of a ship's construction. Before its dangerous properties were know, asbestos was applied to aspects of a ship's plumbing and electrical systems because of its fire-retardant qualities. Some places where asbestos was put to particular use were within boiler rooms, venting and duct work, ceiling and floor panels, as well as nearly every type of pipe fitting. Upon inhalation asbestos fibers attack the respiratory operations of the body, causing mesothelioma and other lung-related complications. It is extremely important that if you or someone you know may have been exposed to asbestos fibers at the Willamette Iron and Steel Yard or any number of other shipyard exposure sights, that you seek out a physician diagnosis. There are several layers of medical and legal support for both victims and families.
Last modified: December 28, 2010.