One of the more interesting stories involving a town along the Illinois Michigan Canal involved Seneca, Il. After the tragedy of Pearl Harbor and the entrance of the United States into the war, there was a massive build up of the American war machine. The coastal shipyards were busy building large naval ships such as destroyers, battleships and aircraft carriers. The small to medium ships were constructed by yards along inland waterways. Seneca was chosen as a site to build LST’ s. These were a class on watercraft used to transport troops and supplies from the larger ships to the beaches. Seneca was located on the Illinois River with access to the Mississippi River. It was also centrally located to provide a large labor force.
The Seneca Prairie Shipyard was located on a 200 acre site on the Illinois River. It had an underlayment of sandstone which provided a stable support. Federal, state and local agencies cooperated in the construction of the facility in 1942–1943. Miles of trenches were built for sewer mains, water mains, and electric power conduits.
The contractor chosen to build the LST’ s was Chicago Bridge and Iron Company. This organization was formed by a merger between Horace Horton ( bridge designer) and George and William Wheelock of Kansas City Bridge and Iron in 1889. The merged company concentrated initially in bridge design and construction. They then moved into bulk liquid storage. They became well known for manufacture of elevated water storage tanks, above
ground storage tanks for petroleum and refined products and steel plate structures. Although it would seem strange that the company chosen to construct LST’ s had never constructed ships, Chicago Bridge and Iron had an impeccable reputation and skills in welding.
To be continued