When the United States entered World War I, the city of Vancouver enjoyed a big surge of prosperity. The Army expanded its force at Vancouver Barracks and established the Spruce Production Division to manufacture airplane wings and fuselages. Most planes of that era were built with a frame of lightweight spruce wood and most of this came from Washington.
The world's largest cut-up mill was built on what later became Pearson Field to produce lumber for the Allied biplanes and other fighting aircraft that took to the skies over Europe. The mill cut an average of 500,000 board feet of lumber per day, enough for 300 airplanes. A total of 143 million board feet was shipped to France, Great Britain, and Italy from the Army's dock on the Columbia River.
The G.M. Standifer Construction Corporation built two shipyards on the Columbia River for the World War I war effort. Wooden ships were built at a facility just west of the Interstate Bridge where the Red Lion Hotel at the Quay is located today. The second shipyard, which made steel ships, was located about a mile to the west, just downstream from the railroad bridge.
Soldiers, shipyard workers, and farmers had money to spend and more people than ever visited downtown or boarded streetcars for Portland. The 1917 mobilization lasted less than a year. After Armistice Day in 1918 ended the war, the Spruce Production Division at the barracks began disbanding. The shipyards finally closed in 1921.