1938: Lamar Construction founded
To supplement his Holland-based family’s farm income during the Great Depression, Peter Lamar takes on carpentry work at the Castle Park Resort, a summer community that was established in the late 19th century. During World War II, the Lamar family’s residential renovation and construction work becomes profitable enough to be a full-time business.
1945: fire, a charitable act, a business expansion
Around the same time that Russell Lamar assumes ownership of the firm from his father, a fire damages the Montello Park Christian Reformed Church in Holland. Sympathizing with parishioners, Lamar Construction donates its services as general contractor for the reconstruction of the chapel, the first of scores of churches the firm ultimately helps build at reduced cost over the next few decades. “They always had a church or school project going,” says current Lamar president Carl Blauwkamp, who began with the company because of his childhood friendship with Greg Lamar, a great grandson of the founder. “They did it to help out those churches. But it was a smart thing to do, too, as many people on those church boards themselves were business owners who had construction projects.”
1950s–1970s: Commercial building takes off
Under the helm of Russell and his sons, Bob, Carl, and Don, the company becomes the largest and most recognized commercial construction firm in western Michigan. It builds warehouses, retail stores, churches (built always at cost), schools, homes, and structures to accommodate food production. The company’s fully equipped steel-construction division and several dozen employees help the company’s growth.
1980s–1990s: Steel erection defines company capabilities
By the mid-1980s, Lamar has five employees who specialize in the one or two steel erection projects they are given each year. Company leadership under Bob Lamar (who later in 1995 will take sole ownership) sees an opportunity to hand this job out to other general contractors. “We had the people and the equipment,” Blauwkamp says, noting that 60-ton-plus-size cranes are essential for this type of work. “We asked, ‘Why not do this outside our own jobs?’” Among the firm’s first large-scale projects with steel is a Wal-Mart store.
2000–2006: Precast concrete, nationwide expansion
Lamar Construction begins its era of precast concrete construction, with large structures characterized by dependably straight walls that require few to no support beams. For food-processing plants, precast concrete enables hygienic operations, and many government structures and buildings in seismic zones see advantages in the method as well. Lamar Construction establishes a national presence with possession
of 230-ton cranes, boom lifts, and heavy-duty forklifts that enable it to build earthquake-solid structures. As an AISC-certified (American Institute of Steel Construction) erector, the firm also is qualified to build hospitals and government buildings.
2007–Present: A new home base
Lamar remains close to its roots. AISC recognizes Lamar’s striking cantilevered headquarters for its innovative design and engineering using structural steel. “This building has propelled us to the next level,” Blauwkamp says. “Several European companies were impressed and have become important new customers of the firm.” The firm has several LEED-certified professionals on staff who assist with the growing number of commercial structures seeking sustainability. In 2010 the company builds the Fulgoni residence, a 2,400-square-foot, three-story LEED Platinum home that perches on a steep slope overlooking Lake Michigan. The home sits in the town of Holland—the same burg where the company was founded—not far from that first church the company repaired so many years earlier.