Oct 1 2013

McMenamins on the Columbia hosts the Annual IPA Invasion every fall. Try a few of the hoppy, high-ABV beers on tap from both McMenamins and guest brewers.

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Not only does McMenamins on the Columbia offer stunning views of the river, but there is quite a bit of history there, as well.

This pub is a fantastically scenic spot to have a beer – settle in at an outside table during sunny weather to watch the boats sail by or take a table indoors to watch stormy weather head upriver toward the Gorge.

But it wasn’t that long ago, during WWII, that this area was a bustling, bristling wartime manufacturing area. One of the famous Kaiser Shipyards was located at this very spot. As shown in this photo, there were berths for upwards of 18 ships at a time, in all stages of production.

Kaiser Ryan Point Shipyards on the Columbia River, 1940s

According to the Oregon History Project, Kaiser’s Oregon Shipbuilding Corporation (across the river and a little further west, near St. Johns) launched the first Liberty ship, The Star of Oregon, on May 19, 1941 – months before the United States had even entered the war.

Therefore, when Pearl Harbor was attacked in December 1941, Kaiser already had connections with the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Maritime Commission. The company was known for getting projects done on time and under budget. The company set a record when the massive Joseph N. Teal was built in just ten days in the fall of 1942 at the Kaiser shipyards located in St. Johns, a feat that was noted in Life Magazine.

Liberty ships were efficient, functional cargo carriers, meant to be built quickly and at low cost. A Liberty was 441 feet long and 56 feet wide, with a top speed of 11 knots. With five holds, these ships could carry over 9,000 tons of cargo – such as 2,840 jeeps, 440 tanks, or 230 million rounds of rifle ammunition.

Kaiser opened the Ryan Point shipyard in Vancouver soon after the Pearl Harbor attack and began producing baby aircraft escort carriers in January 1942.

Henry J. Kaiser, namesake of these and other war-time shipyards along the Pacific Coast, is also the same person who founded Kaiser Permanente, which evolved from industrial health care programs for construction, shipyard, and steel mill workers for the Kaiser industrial companies during the late 1930s and 1940s. It was opened to public enrollment in October 1945.

So drink to your health by raising a glass to the shipyards that once were at McMenamins on the Columbia.

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