Buildings Once Part of Active Shipyard

The non-descript graffiti-ridden building at 2100 Clement Avenue once housed workshops for Pacific Bridge Company, one of the prestigious "Six Companies" that built the Hoover Dam. During World War II, "Six Companies" rolled up their collective sleeves and help restore Pearl Harbor after the Japanese attack. They built airstrips and held a majority ownership interest in the Joshua Hendy Iron Works in Sunnyvale whose assembly line built reciprocating steam engines for 754 Liberty ships. The companies teamed up with one of its members Henry J. Kaiser (from the Hoover Dam days years earlier) to take over shipbuilding on San Francisco Bay.

On his website "Shipbuilding History," Tim Colton reports Portland Ore.-based Pacific Bridge Company came to Alameda in 1942. Its Clement Avenue shipyard included the Oakland Estuary shoreline where the Navy operations center now stands.

"It must have been a very unusual facility, building two ships at a time at a graving dock," Colton writes.

Between December 1942 and August 1944, the company built nine 2,800-ton "N3-S-A1" ships at its Clement Avenue facility, all destined to help Great Britain in its war effort. In addition the yard turned out almost 90 138-ton barges, called "lighters," some of these 110-foot-long barges sported covered workshops and are still in service today.

Things started slowly. On Nov. 19, 1942, the Maritime Commission reported that Pacific Bridge was five months behind in its delivery of ships despite its recent claim to a shipbuilding record by launching a small cargo vessel 80 hours after keel laying. That vessel was likely the Charles Salter, an N3-S-A1 that workers completed the following month.