Wilmington Iron Works

About

All about the history of Wilmington Iron Works, a family-owned and run machine shop and repair/fabrication facility in the Los Angeles Harbor. Since 1920.

ABOUT

INEVITABLY, MUCH HAS HAS CHANGED IN THE WORLD SINCE 1920. BUT THROUGHOUT THE YEARS, WILMINGTON IRON WORKS HAS REMAINED AN UNFALTERING LEGACY OF HARD WORK, FAMILY VALUES, AND QUALITY CUSTOMER SERVICE.


HISTORY

Port of Los Angeles, circa 1900.

The turn of the 20th century dawned an era of industrial boom for the Los Angeles Harbor. Once a perilously shallow port, the harbor was finally dredged so that large ships could safely dock where they would once have run aground. This facilitated a sudden, direct, and rapid exchange of goods between the trade ships and the Los Angeles and San Pedro Railroads, both of which terminated in the tiny harbor-side village of Wilmington.

Union Iron Works, San Francisco, 1918
 Walter Charles Richards and wife Leda on their wedding day, 1910.

Walter Charles Richards and wife Leda on their wedding day, 1910.

 

It was at this time that Walter Charles Richards, "Wally", was born in Watsonville, California. Early in his teenage years, Wally left home for San Francisco to serve an apprenticeship at the Union Iron Works Company. He rose swiftly through the ranks and became the youngest chief engineer to ever serve at that time.

While often away at sea from his wife and young family, Wally was given the opportunity to visit many ports of call. One such port left an important impression on him: the burgeoning Los Angeles Harbor with its bustling marine economy and dire lack of local ship repair facilities. Wally saw great potential, and so, in early 1920, he gathered his small family, which included seven-year-old Walter Charles Richards, Jr., ("Walt"), and two-year-old Edwin and moved south to Long Beach.

 The industrialized Port of Los Angeles, circa 1920.

The industrialized Port of Los Angeles, circa 1920.

With the help of a few investors that Wally would eventually buy out, he purchased a small plot of land on "A" Street in Wilmington. A two-roomed shop was built to house the business, and Wilmington Iron Works, (named in tribute to the Iron Works where he learned his trade) was born. On March 1st, 1920, the doors were officially opened.

Wilmington Iron Works original shop, 1920.

The shop stayed in its original location for ten years, and then moved to its current location on "C" Street in 1930.

Wilmington Iron Works current shop building, 1930.

By the late 1940's, Wally handed operations control down to his two sons, Walt and Edwin, under whom the company incorporated in 1956. Walt came to run the company on his own, and in 1970, his son, Walter Charles Richards, III, ("Rich"), was working under him. Rich assumed control shortly after, in 1976. Rich was at the helm for nearly forty years, until handing the company off in 2012 to his son, Ryan Charles Richards ("Richie").

 Four generations of Richards'.

Four generations of Richards'.

Though it started as strictly a marine-repair business, Wilmington Iron Works has always emphasized its machine shop capabilities. In fact, WIW now has one of the most versatile repair and fabrication facilities in the Los Angeles and Long Beach Harbor region. What was once a tiny two-roomed shop is now over 23,000 square feet of commercial space spread over an acre of property.

wilmingtonironworks.com