When United States entered World War I, Vancouver enjoyed a 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 came from Washington.
On what later became Pearson Field, the world's largest cut-up mill was built 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 war effort. Wooden ships were built at a facility just west of the Interstate Bridge where the Red Lion Hotel at the Quay is today. The second shipyard, which made steel ships, was about a mile 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, the Spruce Production Division at the barracks began disbanding. The shipyards closed in 1921.