Built about 1914 for Libby McNeil and Libby, the Wards Cove cannery at Kenai is still operating. Most of the machinery is fairly new, but the plant has been updated piece by piece, so the machinery still defines individual tasks.
The buildings are large, plain, and gable-roofed, most of them with gable ends toward the water. Most of the work takes place in the cannery building. Fish are brought in either by conveyor or forklift from the boats, which dock just outside. Inside, the fish are moved by conveyor belts, with different processes being accomplished by machine, aided by hands. The fish are gutted, deslimed, loaded into cans, cooked, and taken outside to cool. Neighboring buildings include the can warehouse, where cans were once manufactured (although they are now purchased ready-made); the egg house, where fish roe is canned; the ice house; the freezer plant (much of the business is now frozen fish); and the power plant.
Additional buildings house workers and administration. The company provides beds for a work force of about two hundred, a unionized group of college students and Japanese. Bunkhouses and the mess hall accommodate these workers. This cannery, like most, is an agglomeration of old and new buildings, most covered with corrugated metal. They comprise an easily identifiable, distinctive form on the landscape.