1755 West Armitage Avenue
Building relationships--building trust--is more important than bringing every dollar to the bottom line. And quality and workmanship are not just goals but a way of life at Bulley & Andrews.
Bulley & Andrews, LLC (B&A) is one of Chicago's largest and most respected general contracting companies, as well as one of the oldest contractors in the United States. Bulley concentrates on higher-end jobs, generally favoring private, corporate, or institutional clients over public projects. The firm's reputation for quality workmanship is reflected in the fact that three-quarters of its work comes from repeat customers. Bulley also owns The Meyne Company, a Chicago construction company with a similar approach and an almost as lengthy history. In addition, the company's B&A Telecom division is involved in the building of cellular towers and has grown into one of the nation's 25 largest telecom construction companies.
One of the founders of B&A, Frederick Bulley, was born in Devonshire, England, in 1870, and raised in Canada, where be became skilled as a stonemason, learning from his father as an indentured apprentice at a starting salary of six cents an hour. According to family lore, his father was a stern taskmaster who did not feel that Bulley worked hard enough, an attitude that prompted Frederick Bulley to move to Chicago as a teenager. At first he built chimneys but soon became involved in the business of constructing brick foundations for houses that were being raised to a higher level to make them compatible with the city's new sewer lines. It was during work on one of these projects in 1891, when he was 21 years old, that Bulley met the man who would become his longtime business partner, architect Alfred B. Andrews. A year younger than Bulley, Andrews had been born in Chicago and had studied architecture at Beloit College in Wisconsin. The two men decided to go into business together, becoming general contractors, the concept of which was a recent innovation. Because of their complementary skills, the partners could handle an entire project, from design to construction, although much of their early work was the result of Bulley's excellent reputation in Chicago for masonry. The young architect's chief contribution at this point was his ability to accurately estimate jobs, allowing the company to win bids in a highly competitive industry. B&A took on a wide range of projects, from small houses to factories and warehouses. The partners' dedication to quality workmanship and honesty ultimately allowed the firm to take on higher profile clients and much larger projects. B&A designed and built North Shore mansions, libraries, and private clubs. In 1906, the year the business was incorporated in Illinois, the firm began work on one of its most ambitious projects, a brick factory for Western Electric, manufacturers of telephone equipment, that was a full 200 yards long. In 1909 B&A built the Kenilworth Union Church, establishing a relationship that would last into the next century. Another major project of this period was the 22-story Transportation Building, completed in 1911. A year later B&A built the Lying-in Hospital for the University of Chicago, the first of some 500 commissions from the school over the ensuing decades.
B&A experienced several significant changes in the 1920s. Frederick Bulley's son, Allan, who had been born in 1899, joined the firm in 1922 after earning a degree from the University of Illinois. Two years later, Andrews decided to pursue other interests and sold his stake of the business to his partner of 33 years, leaving B&A a father and son affair. As he gained more influence, Allan Bulley shifted the direction of the company further away from residential projects and more solidly into commercial and institutional construction. It was also in 1924 that B&A moved into a new building designed and constructed by its own people. One of the most prominent contracts completed by the firm during the 1920s was the Chicago Riding School Building, a massive structure that not only stabled the horses of Chicago's wealthy, offering stables for more than 450 horses, but also featured one of the largest riding rings in the world and an observation hall that could seat 3,000, as well as provide access to bridle paths that laced the shoreline of Lake Michigan. Due to highway construction in the 1930s many of the paths were destroyed, leading to the demise of the facility, which over the years became home to an ice skating rink and bowling alley before being purchased by CBS in 1953 and converted into television studios. Also in the 1920s the company handled several projects for John Hertz. Some years earlier, when Hertz was making the transition from sports writer to transportation mogul, he was a tenant of Frederick Bulley, who briefly owned some rental properties. When Hertz, who owned a chauffeured livery business, was unable to pay his rent, Bulley offered encouragement and allowed the young entrepreneur to pay him back when he had the money. Hertz would go on to establish the Yellow Cab Company, the country's first reliable taxicab service, and Hertz Rent-A-Car. Forever grateful, he directed considerable work to B&A over the years. In the 1920s B&A completed several projects for Yellow Cab and Hertz's Chicago Motor Coach Company, and later Hertz hired the firm to construct riding stables in North Carolina and a fraternity in Ithaca, New York.
From Generation to Generation: 1930s-80s
Building strong relationships with customers that resulted in repeat business proved key to the firm's survival during the difficult years of the Depression in the 1930s. The firm's current chairman and CEO, Allan E. Bulley, Jr., was born in 1933 and claimed that as an infant he heard his father exclaim that if he ever became a builder he would starve to death. Nevertheless, the desire to work in the construction field was passed from generation to generation in the Bulley family. In 1939 Allan Bulley, Sr., became the head of the business, his father having been involved in the company for almost half a century.
In the 1940s, shortly after the United States was drawn into World War II, B&A participated in highly secretive building contracts at the University of Chicago at the behest of the War Department. One of the projects was the construction of a room where an old squash court had been located under the stands of Stagg Field, the only guidance offered to Bulley coming from an anonymous Washington official over a secure telephone line. Workers thought that the project was related to an advanced form of radar or perhaps poison gas, and it was only in the final days of the war, when the United States dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, that they began to understand that they had been part of the Manhattan Project, the Army's top-secret effort to develop the world's first nuclear weapon. They had built the room that housed a self-sustaining reactor that produced the world's first atomic pile.
Allan Bulley, Sr., headed the company until 1970, and under his leadership during the 25 years following the end of World War II, B&A continued to specialize in large commercial and institutional construction contracts. The firm completed several projects for Chicago's St. Luke's Hospital, including the School of Nursing and the Morton Clinic Laboratory. Significant commercial ventures included the 60,000-square-foot Ray C. Ingersoll Research Center built for the Borg-Warner Corporation, a 100,000-square-foot headquarters for Standard Rate & Data Service Incorporated, a manufacturing plant and offices for A. Stein, Inc., and a 123,000-square-foot manufacturing facility and boiler house for Skil Corporation that won a pair of important industry awards.
A third generation of the Bulley family took charge of the firm in 1970 when Allan Bulley, Jr., succeeded his father. After graduating from Brown University, where he earned a degree in civil engineering, the younger Bulley went to work for the family business in 1956 and was now well prepared to continue the efforts of his grandfather and father, nurturing relationships with longtime customers while also taking steps to ensure the viability of the company as it met the challenge of changing times. During the 1970s B&A was involved in the high-profile task of replacing the ice rink at the Chicago Stadium, home of the Chicago Blackhawks professional hockey team. The company also took on a number of major projects for St. Francis Hospital, located in Evanston, Illinois. Hospital work continued to be important in the 1980s, when Bulley completed a number of contracts for Gottlieb Hospital in Melrose Park, Illinois, including a 70,000-square-foot Professional Medical Building and a health and fitness center.
It was also during the 1980s that Allan Bulley, Jr., took steps to position the firm for ongoing growth in an industry that was experiencing significant changes brought on by mergers and acquisitions. To expand its base of clients, B&A hired more project managers and beefed up its efforts in marketing and technology. A significant addition was Paul Hellerman, a man with a great deal of experience in major construction projects, hired in 1988. Hellerman played a major role in creating the type of project management teams that could successfully win and complete even larger projects. When Hellerman joined the company, B&A was generating annual revenues of $55 million; a dozen years later it would be posting revenues in excess of $125 million.
Acquisition of Gerhardt F. Meyne Company: 1991
In 1991 B&A grew through external means, acquiring Gerhardt F. Meyne Company, which was subsequently renamed The Meyne Company and operated as a division of B&A. Founded in 1906 by Gerhardt Meyne, who had no more than a grade school education, the firm was very similar to B&A. It was committed to quality workmanship that led to repeat business from such major clients as American National Bank, Central Steel and Wire, and McDonald's. B&A also underwent some managerial changes early in the decade; in 1992 Hellerman was elevated to the position of president and chief operating officer. Alan Bulley remain CEO but now assumed the chairmanship of the corporation, a newly created position. Also in 1992, a fourth generation from the Bulley family entered management when Allan E. Bulley, III was named marketing director after earning an undergraduate degree from Yale University and a master's of management from Northwestern University.
During the decade of the 1990s, the firm continued to be involved in traditional areas of work. In 1994 it started work on an historical restoration effort for St. Mark's Episcopal Church, an Evanston, Illinois, structure originally built in 1890. B&A also continued to work for major financial institutions, including the Northern Trust Company, while the Meyne Company built a new computing laboratory at the University of Chicago. In addition, in the 1990s B&A became more heavily involved in the senior living area, including independent, assisted living, and skilled-care facilities. The company completed contracts for the Presbyterian Home in Evanston, Illinois, as well as One Arbor Lane, Geneva Place, James King Home, Kimble Fitness Center, and the Hazel Wright Manor. B&A also found a new market for its services in the mid-1990s. A Seattle-based contractor, through a reference from a former employee, turned to B&A to help him construct five cellular towers in the Chicago area for AT&T. By the end of the first year the contract grew to 150 and B&A had a new lucrative revenue stream that led to the creation of a special project team focused on the telecommunications industry. After enjoying several profitable years in this sector, B&A in 2000 formed a separate division, B&A Telecom, which in addition to tower erection and traditional construction services also offered help with lightning protection, switch facilities, and cable and antenna installation.
As it entered a new century, B&A continued to maintain strong ties with traditional clients--Chicago-area hospitals, universities, churches, corporations, and financial institutions--as well as developing new areas of business, such as telecommunications. Moreover, the company was devoted to keeping up with the latest technological innovations in the construction field. B&A was one of the founding members of Gradebeam, a joint effort to use the Internet to automate a costly bidding process. In the end, however, B&A's greatest asset remained its oldest: a reputation for honesty and craftsmanship.
Principal Divisions: B&A Telecom; The Meyne Company.
Principal Competitors: James McHugh Construction Co.; McShane Construction Corporation; The Walsh Group.
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