The Nation's Oldest Plumbing and Heating Contractor Celebrates 150 Years

The Buckingham Routh Company

The Buckingham Routh Company lays claim to an impressive title: the nation's oldest plumbing and heating contractor in continuous operation. It's a tough claim to argue, as the New Haven, CT-based company is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.

Established in 1854 —– six years before President Abraham Lincoln took office —– The Buckingham Routh Company was originally named the New Haven Steam Heating Company. It manufactured and sold boilers and flat radiators nationwide. Many of them are still in use in some of the country's oldest homes and estates.

The company also installed many of the original central steam connections for New Haven's buildings, which can still be seen today in the historic Wooster and Chapel Street areas of the city. From those beginnings, the company went on to install the most advanced technology used today.

"The longevity of Buckingham Routh is built on leadership, experience, and merit," says Jim Petrillo, the company's chairman of the board. "Rather than a family passing the helm down through generations of fathers and sons, we have created strong bonds between generations of tradesmen —– and every single one of them began on the shop floor."

Petrillo should know. He's in his 57th year with Buckingham Routh, after joining the company as a 17-year-old apprentice in 1946.

As a leader in the mechanical contracting field, The Buckingham Routh Company helped build the infrastructures for New Haven and Connecticut icons, including Yale University, AT&T, IBM, the U. S. Naval Submarine Base in New London, General Dynamics, Swiss Bank, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Pratt & Whitney, and Sikorsky Aircraft.

Remarkably, Buckingham Routh was never passed from a father to a son, but instead grew through the dedication and vision of many driven leaders. In 1895, the company's founder, James Shearlock, hired his nephew, Arthur Thorpe, as the heating engineer. He also hired Thomas Routh and Alfred Buckingham to take charge of plumbing operations and sheet metal work. The three men incorporated the business that same year as The Buckingham Routh Company.

"After 150 years of service, Buckingham Routh has, through ambition, dedication, and a strong vision, become a leader in our industry," says John Barrasso, executive vice president of the Mechanical Contractors Association of Connecticut. "Their success can only be attributed to a continuous drive towards excellence, the ability to adapt to changes in the field and their strong leadership —– all essentials in the success of mechanical contractors."

"Since 1854, Buckingham Routh has contributed to building this community," adds New Haven Mayor John DeStefano. "They've seen their home city change from mercantile, to industrial, to a knowledge-based economy, and have adapted with the times while remaining a bedrock member of the New Haven community."

Today, the Buckingham-Routh Company has approximately 100 unionized field personnel and 12 office employees at its headquarters in New Haven. Gross sales volume in 2003 was $15 million. The company's business mix is almost entirely commercial/ industrial, and is primarily (about 75%) retrofit work. HVAC accounts for 60% of its business, plumbing and piping 40%.

What's in store for the next 150 years? "We'll grow by continuing to offer what we've always offered: good work and good workmanship," says company President Tim Taylor. "We're not always the low bidder, but we'll guarantee that you'll have a quality project when we're done."

Congratulations to the Buckingham Routh Company on 150 years!

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