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The Construction Projects of Frank B. Gilbreth, General Contractor

After ten years of apprenticeship and a rise through the ranks to site superintendent, Frank Gilbreth owned and managed his own commercial construction firm from 1895 until about 1911, when he turned exclusively to efficiency engineering and management consulting. In those fifteen or so years, his firm built some of the largest construction projects in the US, including entire mill towns.

A complete list of Gilbreth construction projects has never before been assembled. Most accounts rely on the selected list mentioned in Edna Yost's 1949 biography and passing references in the writings of Frank and Lillian Gilbreth. This list of 89 projects was created by combing newspapers and trade journals for the relevant period, with followup research on each project located. This is believed to be the first extensive and nearly complete list of Gilbreth projects since the original firm's long-lost records.

Between the few projects that are well-known or even famous and the many that are relatively mundane will be found others that are unique, important and fascinating. Many of these are forgotten as Gilbreth's work but represent amazing construction history, skill and problem solving. Even after more than a century, many of these buildings, dams and other projects still stand, mostly across the Eastern seaboard. Some are even on the National Register of Historic Places, some in small part because they are Gilbreth's work.

This list is subject to continuing verification and expansion, for which I invite any and all assistance; please contact me for specific research priorities. Given its unique genesis based on significant research effort, notice of use of any of this material and specific citations would be greatly appreciated; also note that there is extended material available on a great number of these entries. Please note that project numbers are for convenient reference and are not (at this time) permanently assigned.

Update, January 2020: a academic paper based on this material is currently in review, Details will be included when (okay, if) it is accepted for publication.

Project 01 Unknown
Location Auburn, New York
Dates July 1895
» Ad calling for carpenters in Auburn in July, 1895. No other details known.
Project 02 Prescott Hall
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dates Noted as under construction May 1896.
Ready for occupancy by September.
» Four-story dormitory for Harvard student housing on the corner of Prescott and Broadway. Still stands, and in original use. First known complete project for Gilbreth as independent contractor.
Project 03 Webster Building
Location Boston
Dates 1896
» Five-story building on Warren Street.
Project 04 Craigie Hall (masonry work)
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dates 1897
» Five-story dormitory for Harvard; work as mason only. Still stands.
Project 05 Brimmer Chambers
Location Boston
Dates 1898
» Six-story apartment building in Beacon Hill. Still stands as a condo.
Project 06 Women’s Club House
Location Boston
Dates Contracted 1898
Completed 1899
» Ten-story fireproof building at 13 Beacon Street.
Project 07 Boston Dispensary
Location Boston
Dates 1898-9
» Expansion of hospital for the poor at Bennett and Ash Streets, built in 1883.
No contracts or references to jobs have been located in the period between early 1899 and the start of 1902.
Project 08 Lowell Memorial Electrical Engineering Laboratory
Location Boston (original MIT campus)
Dates June 1902
» Electrical engineering labs and campus powerhouse. Noted speed-building record of under sixty days.
Project 09 Brick Chimney & powerhouse
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dates 1902
» Powerhouse with 255-foot brick chimney for Cambridge LIght & Power, noted as “the tallest in greater Boston” on the cover of Field System (1908).
Project 10 Hotel alterations
Location Bellows Falls, Vermont [now Rockingham]
Dates 1901-2
» Added fourth floor to renovated hotel.
Noted in November 8, 1902 letter in Field System.
Project 11 Enlarged power station canal
Location Garvin’s Falls, New Hampshire
Dates 1902
» Noted in November 8, 1902 letter in Field System.
Project 12 Extension of mill
Location Waltham, Massachusetts
Dates 1902
» Extensions and improvements of “large mill that had to be kept operating during construction” for the Boston Manufacturing Company, Waltham, Massachusetts.
Project 13 Factory
Location Troy, New York
Dates 1902
» Factory for Cluett, Peabody & Company (makers of Arrow collars and shirts).
Project 14 Paper mill
Location Modena, Pennsylvania
Dates Contract awarded March, 1903
Completed in 1903
» “Dove” Mill for Megargee Paper Company.
Project 15 Moses Taylor Hospital
Location Scranton, Pennsylvania
Dates Contract awarded October, 1903
» Hospital contracted for $40,000, for the railroad and steel mill workers and their families.
Project 16 Mill dam
Location Westerley, Rhode Island
Dates Contract July 1903
» Concrete dam on Pawcatuck River for the Potter Hill textile mill. Still exists.
Project 17 Columbian Rope Company factory
Location Auburn, New York
Dates 1903-4
» Rope plant with eight acres of floor space. Production started “ten months and six days” after plans were started. Later expanded (see below).
Great Baltimore fire, February 1904.
Project 18 Piper Building
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Dates Contract awarded April, 1904
» Five story building plus a basement at the corner of Baltimore and Hanover streets.
Project 19 Warehouse
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Dates Contract awarded April, 1904
» Three story brick warehouse at 121 South Gay Street. $5,000 contract.
Project 20 Warehouse
Location Baltimore, Maryland
Dates Contract awarded May 1904
» Six story warehouse for John Duer and Sons at 36-38 South Charles Street.
Project 21 Building
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dates 1904
» Building (not a gymnasium) for D.A. Sargent Normal School for Physical Education.
Project 22 Ray Memorial Building
Location Franklin, Massachusetts
Dates 1904
» First dedicated home of the Franklin Public Library, the oldest continually operated public lending library in the U.S. The building still stands.
Project 23 Storage tanks and pumping plant
Location Boston
Dates 1904
» Large dockside concrete foundations, storage tanks, sheds and pumping plant for Boston Molasses Company. (This is not the company or tank of the 1919 molasses flood.)
Project 24 Factory
Location Auburn, New York
Dates 1904
» Brick factory, 80 x 500 feet, for the Auburn Hame Company, (A hame is the wooden curve of a horse yoke.)
Project 25 Hydropower dam
Location Cadyville, New York
Dates 1904-5
» Power generation dam on Saranac River. Still stands.
A job list dated January 7, 1905 lists some fifteen jobs by name and city only. Some can be located and verified in other accounts. A number have no further corroboration.
Project 26 Two buildings
Location Rumford Falls, Maine
Dates 1905
» Two mercantile buildings for Rumford Falls Power Company. Noted in January 7, 1905 list.
Project 27 Mill
Location South Boston
Dates < 1905
» Four story mill for Walworth Manufacturing Company. Noted in January 7, 1905 list.
Project 28 House and stable
Location Boston
Dates < 1905
» House and stable for E.J. Bliss on Commonwealth Ave. $80,000 contract. Noted in January 7, 1905 list.
Project 29 Powerhouse
Location Lyons, New York
Dates < 1905
» Powerhouse and machinery foundation for Syracuse, Rochester and Eastern Railroad. Noted in January 7, 1905 list.
Project 30 Auto garage
Location Boston
Dates < 1905
» Garage at 482 Beacon Street. Noted in January 7, 1905 list.
Project 31 Dormitory
Location Cambridge, Massachusetts
Dates 1905?
» Seven story dormitory building. Noted in January 7, 1905 list.
Project 32 Powerhouse
Location East Orange, New Jersey
Dates < 1905
» Powerhouse for the City of East Orange, New Jersey. Noted in January 7, 1905 list.
Project 33 Factory
Location Brooklyn, New York
Dates < 1905
» Factory for Kursheedt Manufacturing Company. Noted in January 7, 1905 list.
Project 34 Concrete canal
Location Taylorsville, Pennsylvania (now Washington Crossing)
Dates 1905?
» Concrete canal for Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. Possibly Hough’s Creek Aqueduct, connecting the Delaware River to the Delaware barge canal.
Project 35 Factory
Location Brooklyn, New York
Dates 1905
» Six story manufacturing plant for John J. Latteman Shoes at St. Edwards and Sycamore Streets.
Project 36 Plant
Location Oneida, New York
Dates June 1905
» New plant for Oneida Community Company Ltd. $35,000.
Project 37 Factory and warehouse
Location Montréal, Québec, Canada
Dates July 1905
» Six-story brick factory and warehouse for the Walter F. Lowney chocolate and candy company. Factory built from foundation to complete shell from July 1 to 26; was ready for occupancy in 56 days. Factory was in operation until 1962. Converted to trendy condos in about 2006.
Project 38 Mill & mill town
Location Sprague’s Falls, Maine (now Woodland/Baileyville)
Dates Contract awarded February 1905.
Construction begun March, 1905.
Construction complete December 1905.
» Dam, paper mill, adjunct buildings and thirty-two houses at falls on St. Croix River for the newly formed St. Croix Paper Company. Very remote, raw location. Teams arrived in March and built cabins on eight feet of snow. Mill was in operation by early in 1906. 1,600-foot dam still exists and mill still in operation on site.
Project 39 Mill support buildings & mill town
Location Piercefield, New York
Dates Contract August 1904
Completed 1905
» Power house with a tall chimney, stables, storehouse, office building and thirty-two houses—essentially the entire town of what is now Piercefield, around a newly built International Paper Company paper mill and dam. The mill buildings are long gone, but the dam, resulting “flow” (mill pond) and town, (still of about thirty houses) survive.
Project 40 Dams and powerhouse
Location Berlin, New Hampshire
Dates 1905
» Two concrete dams, crib dam and powerhouse, with generating machinery on the Androscoggin River for International Paper Company mill. Still stands.
Project 41 Rail car barn & substation
Location North Syracuse, New York
Dates Contract May 1905
» Railcar barn and substation for the New York Central Railroad with concrete roof for fire safety.
Project 42 Roper Hospital
Location Charleston, South Carolina
Dates Contract awarded May 1905
Completion announced on February 1906
» Hospital on the corner of Lucas and Calhoun streets. In December, with construction approaching completion, there was a dispute over the total cost. A lawsuit reached Federal District Court and was not resolved until 1913. Gilbreth was held to the contract amount and refused additional payment of $15-20,000.
Project 43 Dam
Location Milton, Massachusetts
Dates 1905
» Concrete hydropower dam for Walter Baker Chocolate Company. Still stands.
Project 44 Alexander residence
Location New York City
Dates 1906?
» Grand residence for C.B. Alexander, 4 West 58th Street at 5th Avenue. $600,000.
Project 45 Barge canal
Location Sulphur, Louisiana
Dates Contract awarded October, 1905
» Dredging and possible construction of a barge canal between sulfur production works at Sulphur, Louisiana and the Gulf of Mexico for the Union Sulphur Company.The project was halted within the year and not completed until the 1920s.
Project 46 Factory building
Location Stamford, Connecticut
Dates 1905
» Factory for Yale & Towne.
Project 47 Factory
Location Sioux City, Iowa
Dates Contract May 1905
» Reinforced concrete manufacturing plant for Simmons Hardware Company of St. Louis. $300,000 contract.
Project 48 Factory buildings
Location Stamford, Connecticut
Dates 1906
» Two additional buildings, one of reinforced concrete, for Yale & Towne. At least one had the first floor put into service while construction continued on the second level.
Project 49 Textile mill
Location Rockville, Connecticut
Dates 1906
» Four story textile mill of reinforced concrete with chimney, and possibly concrete replacement for existing stone dam. In use until 1962, then stood abandoned until it was modernized and converted to loft condos in 2016.
Project 50 MIT Naval Engineering Building
Location Boston
Dates July, 1906
» Brick building for the MIT school of Naval Engineering, well off campus near Park Square. Photos show completion from foundation to full structure from  July 1st to 25th. Used Gilbreth’s system of precast concrete/hydro-driven piles. No corroborating information (from contemporary newspapers, etc.) of this building.
Project 51 McGraw Building (Engineering Record)
Location New York
Dates 1906
» Ten-story reinforced concrete building in Manhattan. Contract canceled in November after significant construction. Gilbreth won subsequent lawsuit in 1908.
Project 52 Georgetown Steam Plant
Location Seattle, Washington
Dates Ground broken March 30, 1906
In operation 1907
» Steam power generation plant for Seattle Electric Lighting Co. Job started without decision as to build brick or reinforced concrete; 1906 earthquake and difficulty of getting ironwork for brick construction pushed decision to concrete. Uses 64-foot cast beams, then longest in existence. Many pictures in Concrete System.
San Francisco fire and earthquake of April, 1906.
Project 53 Mutual Life Insurance Building
aka "Canadian Commerce Building"
Location San Francisco
Dates 1906-07
» Demolition project to remove top six of eight stories of surviving but gutted building at the corner of Sansome and California Streets. Undertaken to allow FBG to study its steel frame for quake and fire resistance. It is unclear if the building that stands there now is the rebuilt base or an entirely new building after further demolition. (Other references to a "Canadian Commerce Building" project almost certainly mean the reconstruction of this one, as the Canadian Bank of Commerce was a tenant.)
Project 54 Two warehouses
Location San Francisco
Dates Contract June 1906
» Two three-story reinforced concrete warehouses built for Timothy Hopkins. $500,000 contract. One (or part of one) may still stand on Townsend Street.
Project 55 Three buildings
Location San Francisco
Dates Contract June 1906
» Three buildings for Henry Sonntag. One was at Sansome and Jackson and appears to stand there now. Another was on (now-vanished) Oregon Street. The location of the third is not known.
Project 56 St. Clair Building
aka Boyd Building
Location San Francisco
Dates Completed July 1907
» Eight story office building at the corner of California and Drumm Streets, all concrete including cornice. Built for the Boyd estate but known publicly as the St. Clair Building in others. FBG had offices in the building once complete.
Project 57 North Beach Electric Power Station
Location San Francisco
Dates In operation October 1907
» Steam power generation plant built for the new City Electric Company. Reinforced concrete and used 48-foot cast roof beams.
Project 58 Citizen’s Bank
Location Alameda, California
Dates 1907
» Neoclassical building entirely of concrete, including an elaborate cornice, for $40,000. Monolithic casting in place of front columns. Still stands at Park Street and Santa Clara Avenue after being quadrupled in size (in matching style) by Bank of America in 1924.
Project 59 Wilson Building
Location San Francisco
Dates 1907/8
» Seven story building at 973 Market Street, originally built in 1901 for the Breuner furniture store. Gutted in 1906 fire and rebuilt to preserve the façade of elaborate terra cotta panels and columns. Still standing; converted to loft apartments about 2013.
Project 60 Union Square Hotel
Location San Francisco
Dates ca. 1907
» Four story hotel.
Project 61 Pacific Grand Hotel
Location San Francisco
Dates Opened July 1907
» Five story hotel of 150 rooms, on Ellis Street near Powell Street. Built in five and a half months.
Project 62 Cement Plant
Location Unknown
Dates 1907
» Cement plant for Pennsylvania Cement Company. Details unknown.
Project 63 Paper mill
Location Canton, North Carolina
Dates Contract ca. March 1906
1907
» Paper (pulp) mill for the Champion Fibre Company. Largest wood-pulp plant in the country at the time of construction, with $2 million aggregate cost for 35 buildings, companion to Ohio finishing plant below.
Project 64 Paper mill
Location Hamilton, Ohio
Dates Contract September 1906
1907
» Paper (finishing) mill for Champion Coated Paper Co mill. One-quarter mile long along the Great Miami River, including a hydraulic wall along the water. Mostly reinforced concrete and steel, with rail tracks elevated on concrete trusses against floods.Building stands and is being rebuilt into an enormous indoor sports pavilion in 2019.
Project 65 Railway power station
Location Plymouth, Massachusetts
Dates 1907
» Power station for Plymouth and Brockton Street Railway. Produced electricity three months after start of work.
Project 66 Railway power station
Location Canton, Massachusetts
Dates 1907?
» Power station for Blue Hill Street Railway. Shown largely complete “after 36 days.”
Project 67 Factory addition
Location Auburn, New York
Dates 1907
» Large three-story plus basement addition to Columbian Rope building.
Project 68 Factory
Location Stamford, Connecticut
Dates Contract April 1907
» Extensions to two factories for Yale & Towne. (At least two more buildings for Y&T are referenced in job listings but have not been confirmed.)
Project 69 Factory
Location Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Dates Contract February 1907
» Five story reinforced concrete building for S.L. Allen and Company. $140,000 job. (Allen made Flexible Flyer sleds as year-round adjunct to agricultural equipment including the patented “Planet Jr” seed drill.) Still standing but vacant; facility is decaying and fire-damaged.
Project 70 Paper mill
Location Glen’s Falls, NY
Dates 1907?
» Sulfite paper mill for the Union Bag and Paper Company. Known as the Fenimore mill for its location between Glens Falls and Hudson Falls. The mill was at the time “one of the largest and best equipped paper mills in the state.”
Project 71 Factory
Location North Bennington, Vermont
Dates Contract November 1907
» New factory with brick walls and concrete floors and structure for the H.C. White Company. $35,000 project.
Project 72 Factory
Location Gardner, Massachusetts
Dates Contract June 1907
Construction March 1908
» Brick factory with steel structure for Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Co, of Wakefield Massachusetts, makers of rattan and wicker furniture. Four story plus basement factory and office building. First FBG job that attempted to implement part of the Taylor System, but resistance from workers and unions led to abandonment of pay incentives.
Project 73 Factory
Location Eastport, Maine
Dates Contract February 1908
» Can factory for Seacoast Canning Company. Still standing, one of the last fish plants/canneries left. Being converted to hotel and conference center. Added to National Register of Historic Places 2016 in part because Gilbreth built it.
Another job list from late 1908 lists several dozen jobs by name and city only. Again, some can be located and verified in other accounts but a number have no further corroboration.
Project 74 Exposition building
Location Boston
Dates Contract May 1908
» Exposition buildings for “First World’s Shoe and Leather Fair” along the Charles River. Contract first let to another Boston builder who was found to be doing inferior work (pilings shorter than required). Fair was delayed one year, from July 1908 to July 1909, while Gilbreth took over, removed inferior work and completed the  buildings.
Project 75 Unknown
Location Boston
Dates < 1909
» Project for New England Confectionery Company. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 76 Unknown
Location Dalton, Massachusetts
Dates < 1909
» Project for Z. & W.M. Crane paper company. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 77 Unknown
Location Dalton, Massachusetts
Dates < 1909
» Project for Dalton Power Company. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 78 Unknown
Location Boston
Dates < 1909
» Project for Columbia Electric Vehicle Company. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 79 Power station
Location Boston
Dates < 1909
» Power station for Boston Steam & Power Company. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 80 Unknown
Location Lowell, Massachusetts
Dates < 1909
» Project for the Lowell Bleachery Company. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 81 Powerhouse?
Location Houghton, Michigan
Dates < 1909
» Powerhouse(?) for Houghton County Street Railway. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 82 Unknown
Location Waltham, Massachusetts
Dates < 1909
» Project for the Boston Manufacturing Company. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 83 Unknown
Location Syracuse, New York
Dates < 1909
» Project for the Bay Road Construction Company. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 84 Paper mill
Location Ridgefield, New Jersey
Dates < 1909
» Paper plant for H.G. Lowe Paper. Listed in 1908 ad.
Project 85 Cotton mill
Location Paterson, New Jersey
Dates Contract July 1908
Construction begun December 1908
Probably completed February 1909
» One-story brick mill extension for H.E. Danner Textile Company.
Project 86 Box Factory
Location Chelsea, Massachusetts
Dates December 1908-March 1909
» Complete rebuild of Atwood-McManus Company box-making plant, destroyed in the second Chelsea fire. Power plant, two “very tall” chimneys, receiving building, office building, stable, sawdust and kindling wood building, two story factory, warehouse. First successful implementation of Taylor-Gilbreth pay incentive system after FBG negotiations with four labor unions.
Project 87 Dam and powerhouse
Location Columbia, New Jersey
Dates Contract October 1909
» “Ransom hollow dam” 30 feet high and 350 feet long for the Warren County Power Company on Paulin’s Kill (a tributary of the Delaware River), reinforced concrete powerhouse and tailrace.Demolished in 2018.
Project 88 Dam and powerhouse
Location Creighton, Georgia
Dates Contract February 1909
» “Ransom hollow dam” 42 feet high and 600 feet long and a reinforced concrete power house on the Etowah River.
Project 89 Paper mill
Location Three Rivers (Trois-Rivières) Québec, Canada
Dates Contract December, 1910
» Paper (pulp) mill for the Union Bag & Paper Company, at Cap de la Madeleine, Trois-Rivières, Québec. Appears to still be in operation. Possibly the last major construction project for FBG.