The Charleston Ordnance Center, formerly the U.S. Naval Ordnance Plant and now South Charleston Industrial Park, primarily consists of several large buildings and associated shops and rail lines. It is located between U.S. 60 and Interstate 64 in South Charleston. Construction began before World War I, with much expansion in World War II. The major operations involved fabrication of armor plate for naval vessels and the ‘‘pickling’’ (final finishing and acid treatment to remove oxide scale and other debris) of large battleship guns. The scale of the place is huge, with the largest building enclosing more than 900,000 square feet.
Completed too late to be of use in World War I, the Ordnance Center was closed in 1922. It reopened in 1939 and saw major service in World War II. It was a vital center of wartime production, employing 7,400 workers by 1944, half of them women. Among other munitions, they produced air-to-ground rockets, torpedo flasks, and more than 130,000 gun barrels for the large guns of battleships. The plant received the coveted Army-Navy ‘‘E’’ production award in 1942.
From 1946 to 1961, the facility was used for storage of Navy ordnance production equipment. The facility also housed a Naval gauge laboratory. At times, more than 200 civil service workers and five Navy personnel worked there.
In 1961, the facility was sold to FMC, which later sold most of the buildings to the Park Corporation. Many armored vehicles were built at the Ordnance Center for use in the Vietnam War. The complex was later leased to the American Motors Corporation as an automobile body parts stamping operation. About 1979, the lease was taken over by Volkswagen to stamp body parts for its popular Rabbit model. In 1988, Volkswagen closed its operation, and some of its employees formed the South Charleston Stamping and Manufacturing Company (SCSM), also stamping body parts for automobiles.
In 1997, SCSM was purchased by Mayflower Vehicle Systems. Of the two longest buildings, Mayflower occupied the south building and part of the north building. The remainder of the north building was home for several small and medium-sized enterprises. Mayflower employed a large workforce, stamping out body parts for Mercedes, General Motors, and Freightliner, among others. Mayflower was purchased by Union Stamping and Assembly in 2004.
In 2006, Cleveland financier Ray Park bought the plant and invested millions in state-of-the art robots for the stamping of auto parts. The plant remained idle for several years, but in 2012, Gestamp North America leased the equipment. The company began operating there in August 2012, and plans to employ up to 400 people.
This Article was written by Robert C. Hieronymus
Last Revised on October 16, 2012
Cite This Article
Hieronymus, Robert C. "Charleston Ordnance Center." e-WV: The West Virginia Encyclopedia. 16 October 2012. Web. 31 January 2015.