Harbor Island is an industrial complex at the mouth of the Duwamish River, across Elliot Bay from the downtown Seattle waterfront. It was created in the early 1900s by filling in tidal flats from ”regrades” of area hills and, when completed in 1909, was world’s largest artificial island.

Here in 1940, with $9 million in government seed money, Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corporation commenced building a facility dedicated to destroyer production. (This work was not quite the area’s first of destroyer-type ships. In 1899, predecessor Moran Brothers had built Rowan, Torpedo Boat No. 8 and in 1920, Todd Drydock & Construction Company had delivered Caldwell-class destroyer Gwin, DD 71.)

In 1941, the new “Sea-Tac” Harbor Island yard was ready to lay keels for ten Gleaves-class destroyers. Production proceeded slowly—these square-bridge ships were launched after an average 324 days and they commissioned after an average of 653 days. Then, retooling over a little more than five months, the yard began construction of 21 square-bridge Fletchers, the first of which it completed in time to commission before the yard’s last Gleaves. Without pause, it followed these 2,100-tonners by laying keels for five Sumners and then ten Gearings, five of which were delivered before the end of the war (the tenth, Seaman, DD 791, was never completed).

During World War II, the yard was taken over by Todd Dry Dock & Construction Company, an organization that built or repaired 23,000 ships in multiple shipyards around the country. The Seattle Division alone delivered 126 ships of six different classes in one 36-month period. For their last destroyers, Harbor Island’s 17,000 employees trimmed average time to launch by one quarter (to 243 days). Yet the yard’s real strength was its ability to handle as many as ten hulls on its slipways at once—its wartime total of 40 ships commissioned was third-largest among all destroyer builders.

After World War II, Todd reorganized and at one time operated seven shipyards on the Atlantic, Pacific and Gulf Coasts. Today, as Vigor Shipyards, it remains a leading regional shipyard at Harbor Island where it enjoys a reputation for commercial, Navy and Coast Guard construction, modernization and repair.