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  • Writer's pictureHistoric Columbus

Concrete and Steel: The History of the Hardaway Contracting Company

In April, HCF's History Spotlights will cover the stories and legacies of five businesses that have been in our community for a long time. This week is the history of the Hardaway Contracting Company.

This history spotlight was taken from 40 Years of Progress Through Construction Vol. I - III by the Hardaway Contracting Company (1951), City of Progress by Margaret Whitehead and Barbara Bogart, and Heritage Park: A Celebration of the Industrial Heritage of Columbus, Georgia by Dr. John S. Lupold.


The City Mills Dam produced more waterpower than its grist operation could use. So in 1895, the Columbus Railroad Company leased a portion of the waterpower from City Mills and built a powerhouse in the river west of the gristmill. John F. Flournoy’s company absorbed the Brush Light operation and brought its generating equipment from the Hamburger Mill to the riverside plant. It became the major supplier of retail electricity for the city, but more power was needed if Columbus were to realize its industrial potential. More capital than could be generated by any Columbusite or any Columbus company was essential if the river were to be developed. John Hill, the Eagle & Phenix engineer, suggested to Gunby Jordan the feasibility of harnessing the tremendous fall at Lover’s Leap north of town. The potential power of the site had always been obvious, but the technology to develop it had not been available until this period. Jordan then joined W.C. Bradley to assemble the capital and recruit the statewide Bibb Company, in which they became major stockholders. With the expanded capital the Bibb Company built a dam, a mill, and a village at this site. The Bibb leadership spun off the Columbus Power Company to market its wholesale power.

The image above is from the collection of The Columbus Museum: printed on recto at bottom center "Lover's Leap/ Chattahoochee River"; printed on recto at bottom "Drawn by J. Smillie from a sketch by T. Addison Richards", printed on recto at lower right, "Engraved by Rawdon, Wright, Hatch & Smillie"; written on recto at lower right, "GEORGIA."

The construction of the Bibb Dam was not an easy feat. John Hill began planning a dam there, but he dies in January of 1898 before completing its design. Mr. Whitney of South Carolina, an established bridge engineer, designed the curvilinear dam that funneled water to the Georgia side of the river, and Benjamin Hurt Hardaway, Sr., built it. Completed by 1901, the dam experienced a major trauma in early 1902 when high water caused it to wash out and partially collapse. The problem was in its design; two other dams engineered by Whitney failed on the same day. Ben Hardaway rebuilt the dam nine years before he organized the Hardaway Contracting Company.

Benjamin Hurt Hardaway was born in 1866 in Bullock County, Alabama. He attended both Auburn and the University of Alabama. 1891 was the year that marked a turning point for Ben – he crystalized his plans to become a general contractor in construction. In this early period, he operated gravel pits to sell railroad ballast, and he handled contracts for pile driving and trestle work for railroads. After his success and Whitney’s failure with the construction and rebuild of the Bibb Dam, he began to take on numerous hydro-electric contracts. A new dam around the Bibb site was soon a very apparent need to all in order to expand the city’s economic growth.

However, an out of town group from Boston, Stone & Webster, controlled all the city’s utilities by 1905. Local friends pleaded for the construction of a new dam, but to no avail – not until Ben Hardaway stepped in and took a gamble. In 1909, Hardaway organized the Chattahoochee Power Company to buy land between West Point and Columbus with the intention of organizing another power company. By challenging the monopoly of Stone & Webster, they made a deal. Hardaway sold them the land he had acquired, and Stone & Webster agreed to build the Goat Rock dam immediately with Hardaway as the contractor. Construction began in 1910.

Also in 1910, he was the only bidder on the first concrete bridge built across the Chattahoochee, which opened for traffic in 1912. His contacts became so large in number, he incorporated the business in 1911 as the Hardaway Contracting Company. Heavy emphasis continued on power dams and plants for the next ten years, and the Hardaway organization became nationally known for the scope and quality of its work. Below is an in-progress image of the Dillingham Street Bridge.

Beginning in 1920, the greatest road program the nation had ever know had launched. Mr. Hardaway, Sr. contributed his wealth of knowledge and skill to this type of construction, as well as continuing construction of bridges, power plants, and dams. One of the engineering problems the company and Ben Hardaway, Jr., who had joined his father, faced was in Columbus. They contracted to build a concrete bridge over the Chattahoochee at 14th Street replacing a steel structure. Traffic was heavy and it was essential that its flow not be interrupted. The young bridge builder raised the structure in the air, shifting its support from point to point, and proceeded to build the bridge piers and the superstructure under the elevated passageway.

Ben Hardaway, Sr. was active in the company’s direction until his death in 1928. He put himself into everything he built; he wanted to satisfy his clients fully, but above that, he wanted to satisfy himself. Ben Hardaway, Jr. took over management of the company in early 1929. Road building continued as the major construction emphasis until the outbreak of World War II in 1939. Then began the defense work era. Dozens of military projects were handled in the ensuing years. Work included giant dry docks, air stations – the largest of which was the $36,000,000 job at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida – and training camps.

By 1946, state road departments found that they were far behind in road construction and the Hardaway Company received many of the contracts. Power companies began developing power plants again and between 1944 and 1951, the Hardaway Company built 11 steam plants in six different locations. Another major factor during this period was bridge work. Below is an image of the Gulf Power Company Steam Power Plant in Pensacola, Florida - completed in December, 1944.

John M. Money was born in Carrollton, Mississippi in 1900. Prior to World War I, he worked as a commissary clerk with the Hardaway Company. Following World War I, he entered the University of Virginia. Upon leaving the university, he resumed his work with Hardaway Contracting. He served as an engineer and superintendent on many jobs and in 1937 was elected as a vice president of the company. Following Ben Hardaway, Jr.’s appointment in 1952 as Chairman of the Board, Mr. Money became President. Mr. Money is pictured to the left.

In 1954 under the leadership of John Money and Ben Hardaway III, the company was completing a $7,500,000 highway bridge across Lower Tampa Bay between St. Petersburg and Bradenton, Florida. The span covers seven miles, four and one-half miles of bridgework and the rest in causeways. Three and one-half miles of bridgework were built with prestressed concrete beams, making it the largest prestressed job in the country at the time. This established the company as a leader in prestressed concrete construction. In 1971, Hardaway Concrete Company completed a parallel four and one-half mile bridge to the Sunshine Skyway South bound bridge over Tampa Bay.

In 1968, Ben Hardaway III was elected President and Mr. Money was made Chairman of the Board. Ben III worked for many years in various capacities at the company and continued the long tradition of the Hardaway Contracting Company being a force in the construction of power plants, dams, bridges, and other heavy construction. In 1969, through its subsidiary, Standard Construction Company, Hardaway entered into the nuclear construction field when it received the contract for the structure of the Georgia Power Company's first nuclear plant near Baxley, Georgia. This project emphasized the company's commitment to adjust as changing conditions require to serve its customers. Ben Hardaway III’s son-in-law, Mason Houghland Lampton, joined the Hardaway Company in 1977 as Vice President and Chief Operations Officer. In 1980, Mason purchased The Hardaway Company from his father-in-law. This same year a phosphate freighter rammed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa, Florida. This dramatic accident created a crisis for the people in Tampa Bay. The Hardaway Company mobilized overnight to conduct a dramatic 74-day recovery operation for portions of the southbound bridge. The Hardaway Company landed one of the largest contracts in its history in 1987 when it bested three other contractors to secure the new Vienna, Maryland, Bridge Project. In 1994, the company participated in one of the world’s largest construction projects, by providing over $130 million dollars of work towards the Department of Energy’s Gas Centrifuge Enrichment Plant in Piketon, OH.

Mason Houghland Lampton formed Standard Concrete Products, Inc. in 1997. He purchased the prestressed assets from The Hardaway Company. In addition, he purchased assets from Gary Concrete, notably acquiring plants in Savannah, and Atlanta. Combined with Standard’s prestressed plant in Tampa, the company has become a formidable supplier of prestressed concrete products in the Southeast. In 2005, the family tradition continued with B.H. Hardaway, Sr.’s great-great-grandson, Mason Hardaway Lampton, becoming President and Chief Executive Officer of Standard. Mason Houghland Lampton was appointed Chairman of the Board. For well over 100 years, the Hardaway Contracting Company, and now Standard Concrete Products, has kept our community safer, as well many others thanks to their skill, hard work, and a little bit of that gambling spirit that started it all. Next week, we will highlight Harvey Lumber.

You can access ALL of Historic Columbus' History and Preservation Spotlights here: AND Tuesdays With Justin here: Historic Columbus (GA) - YouTube

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