In the 1920s, the William H. Todd Corporation built Todd Shipyards on the shore of the Mississippi River in an area once known as McClellanville. The shipyard was located near the Algiers Naval Station at the present-day intersection of Merrill and Patterson streets. Since the early days of shipping in New Orleans, the West Bank of the Mississippi River housed industries that supported the area’s shipping traffic. While loading docks and ports were mostly on the East Bank of the river, dry docks and ship repair facilities were on the opposite bank of the river in Algiers and nearby communities.
In 1936, Todd Shipyards merged with nearby Johnson Iron Works. The resulting combined industry brought economic growth to the area with jobs at the docks in addition to other local supporting businesses including food, housing, utilities, and supplies.
During World War II, Todd-Johnson Dry Docks, as it was known for a time, covered 73 acres that included 50 buildings covering 228,000 square feet. There were 6,400 linear feet of wharves along the river and two dry docks that could lift ships weighing up to 20,000 displacement tons. Over 4,000 people worked around the clock to build and repair military craft including submarines.
In 1944, Mel Ott, Gretna born right fielder for the New York Giants, joined Todd-Johnson’s personnel department during baseball’s off season for a “winter war job.”
After the war, Todd Shipyards continued shipbuilding and repair operations in this location for several decades. In 1979, Todd Shipyards lengthened the wharf by 450 feet and constructed new dry dock facilities. In the early 1980s, military defense buildup of the Reagan administration provided more work for the shipyards.
In the 1980s, Todd Shipyards, like many shipyards throughout the nation, fell on economic hard times as demand for domestic commercial shipbuilding waned. On June 3, 1985, 136 Todd Shipyard employees went on strike to combat proposed cuts to pay and benefits. Just six months after the strike began, Todd Shipyard closed. Todd Shipyards (which operated additional shipyards in Houston, Los Angeles, and Seattle) filed for bankruptcy protection. In 1987, the Port of New Orleans acquired the shipyard's 21 acres and remaining equipment for $6.9 million in settlement of the company’s debt.
Todd Shipyards’ docks, wharves, and buildings no longer stand. The site of the shipyard is currently green space. In 2018, the Port of New Orleans asked the city to alter the site’s zoning from green space to maritime use to permit shipping, docking, and industrial activity. As of September 2019, the Port withdrew its application and no changes were planned due to serious community opposition.