Portland Seawall

The History of J.F. Shea, Part 2

by rachelk on August 21, 2012


In the early 1900’s Charlie Shea, John Shea’s eldest son, set out to remake his father’s business. While plumbing had been the focus of John’s business ventures, Charlie transitioned the company to underground piping and tunnel work in hopes of acquiring large jobs rather than focus on small contracts. Over the next 10 years the J.F. Shea Plumbing Company would build at least four major sewers and storm drain systems in Portland, Oregon.

While John was still involved in the business, he slowly relinquished control to his sons, who would take the business after he passed. It was obvious that Charlie was gaining control of the business, and by 1915 the company was reorganized and renamed the J.F. Shea Company under the guidance of Charlie. John and Charlie Shea both held 40 percent shares and 20 percent went to Gil, another one of John’s sons.

Between 1917 and 1920, Charlie Shea became the General Manager for the North Pacific Shipbuilding Company during World War I. The J.F. Shea Company would install the plumbing and heating facilities in the ships manufactured at the shipyard during this time. This postured them for more ship building experience to come before World War II.

Large sewer contract jobs like the Portland Seawall and the Mokelumne Pipeline helped grow the business, but the latter project would bring the J.F. Shea Company into California for their largest project yet. This project would pave the way for their entry into California and posture them for success in the great state.