STEELE CREEK NEWS
Why Do We Have So
Industry? It All Started with the Shell Plant
(October 17, 2018) The Westinghouse Industrial Corridor is reportedly the
second largest employment center in Mecklenburg County behind Uptown
Charlotte and is the largest industrial employment concentration in the state of
North Carolina. An estimated 33,000 workers are employed along
Westinghouse Boulevard and Carowinds Boulevard in Steele
The corridor is the dominant
feature affecting the geography of Steele Creek. It carves a
large nonresidential swath through the middle of our
Ayrsley, Berewick, Taragate, Whitehall, and other
residential and commercial areas to the
north from the Crossings, the Palisades, RiverGate, the Sanctuary,
Yorkshire, and other residential and commercial areas to the south. It provides employment for many Steele
Creek residents but also generates a huge amount of traffic from
employees driving into Steele Creek and clogging I-485 inbound
in the morning and outbound in the afternoon. A large
network of railroad spurs totaling about 30 miles continues
to serve industries in Steele Creek today.
Bofors 40 mm anti-aircraft guns on a Mk 12
quadruple mount firing on board
USS Hornet (CV-12), circa February 1945,
probably during gunnery practice.
It all got started in
1942 when a facility known locally as the Shell Plant was built on
former farmland to produce ordinance to
support the Navy effort during World War II. The old Shell Plant
covered 2260 acres.
At its height the plant had more than 12,000 employees, over 90% of them women,
and peak production was 213,143 rounds in 24 hours on December 7,
Buses brought in workers from surrounding counties to staff
three shifts. The Steele Creek plant stayed in full production until
Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945. Later that year, the Shell Plant was commissioned a naval
ammunition reserve depot.
The map below shows the area of the Shell Plant
in yellow cross hatch with current streets based on a variety of historic maps.
The land was sold by the federal government in
1959 to a group of investors. It became the Arrowood Business Park
and was subdivided and sold off in smaller parcels. In 1968
Westinghouse (now Siemens) built its massive turbine plant to the
west near Shopton Road West and extended Westinghouse Boulevard west
from the Arrowood Business Park. Later
additional industrial development occurred along Westinghouse Boulevard both
east and west of the old Shell Plant as well as along Carowinds Boulevard.
This development helped define the character of today's Steele Creek.
The main Shell Plant cafeteria
was located on what is now Westinghouse Boulevard about 1000 feet
east of the current South Tryon Street. The original building burned in 1944 but was
soon rebuilt. The
rebuilt cafeteria has been the location of various restaurants over
the years and is now home to La Poblanita Mexican Restaurant
and the Trap. It most likely is the only building still left today that existed
when the plant closed in 1957.
The map below shows the property after 1960 when it was owned by Arrowood
HERE or on the image to view a detailed version of the map
in a new tab.
As the map below shows, the Westinghouse Corridor is one of the
major employment areas of Mecklenburg County. The corridor from
Shopton Road West to where Westinghouse Boulevard crosses I-485 to
the east and the Carowinds Boulevard area has nearly 40,000
employees according to Charlotte Planning Department estimates.
About 33,000 of these are employed west of I-77 in Steele Creek.
This is the legacy of the Shell Plant in Steele Creek. (See
Rapid Steele Creek Population Growth is Expected to Continue.)
Please use the following links to view
three articles adapted from
stories collected or written by Walter Neely and published in Gleanings, Newsletter
of the Steele Creek Historical and Genealogical Society.
Steele Creek Farmland Converted to Navy Ordinance Plant in 1942
Steele Creek Contributed to the World War II Effort
The Shell Plant Becomes Arrowood Business Park
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