Friday, March 15, 2013

Shanghai Dock in Black and White

Some time back I went looking for evidence of the mysterious "Shanghai Dock" that rears its head, from time to time, in horror stories of the Portland waterfront. What I found was the hard evidence that the Shanghai Building Company leased the old Columbia Shipbuilding site at the south end of town. The Army Corp of Engineers had to dredge out the river in front of the dock to make the channel deep enough for the freighters of the day. The company shipped lumber to China until the first days of WWII when the Japanese invaded. This dock took the name in 1923 when the Shanghai Building Company took over. The name lasted for some years after the company folded—until the area was taken over by Zidell for ship breaking. Of course this was quite awhile after the days of shanghaiing sailors for windjammer tours. The last reports of shanghaiing are around 1915, incidentally the same year that Charlie Chaplin made the move, "Shanghaied."


Although it was frequently mentioned in the newspapers, especially in the "Marine Notes" section, until today, I had never seen the name "Shanghai Dock" on a city map. This morning I had the good fortune to be at Tom Robinson's archives. He pulled out a large format city map printed in 1934, and as I scanned the waterfront my eyes lighted upon the words, "Shanghai America Dock." The location was right where I have been saying it was—almost beneath the Ross Island Bridge. I am including that small piece of the map for you to see. But don't ask me why they put the word "American" in there. The company name was "Shanghai Building Company" and in the Marine Notes it was always simply "Shanghai" or "Shanghai Dock."