History

A Brief Company History...

Michael D. Lavelle, 70, presides as a proud, benign patriarch over a dynasty at the Gorman-Lavelle Corporation and reflects that what's past is prologue.

With 54 years in the plumbing, heating, and ventilating business behind him, Mike is imbued with parental esteem for the performance of his four sons - all executives of the company. Young in spirit, Mike, as chairman, looks ahead with them.

"They are doing a terrific job," said Mike. "They have built annual volume up to a range of three to five million dollars. Perhaps they have a heritage and tradition of competence, plus qualities of their own."

Lavelle, short, witty, with wispy white hair, came up the hard way. Born in Syracuse, he quit school in the eighth grade to help his family after his father, a carpenter, suffered a broken leg.

Mike worked as a carpenter apprentice, drove a delivery wagon, and entered plumbing as an apprentice in 1907. He also was a catcher for sandlot and semi-pro baseball teams. After he began working for contractors, he came here in 1911.

As a journeyman plumber he traveled much on jobs and returned here in 1915 to help in construction of St. John Hospital. For eight years he was chief estimator and superintendent of plumbing for the W.G. Cornell Company.

Mike then formed a partnership with John I. Gorman in 1926. They incorporated and Gorman died that year. Gorman made a dying request that his name be perpetuated in the company title, Lavelle acquiesced. He called it the Gorman-Lavelle Plumbing, Heating & Ventilating Company.

The partnership was founded in the garage behind Gorman's home on Franklin Ave. Gorman and Lavelle each invested $2000. Mike had two mortgages on his home on W. 136th St. and was supporting his wife and four children and buying a car.

After Gorman's death Mike moved the business to W. 14th St. He worked 16 hours a day six days a week for 11 years and took no vacations.

Mike moved the business to 4408 Carnegie Ave. in 1932, then to 2341 E. 22nd St. in 1940. With the Innerbelt Freeway cutting through his property, he moved last November to his present site, a former yard of the Hunkin-Conkey Construction Company. This year he shortened the firm's name.

Mike's oldest son, Anthony E., 43, a mechanical engineer who graduated from Notre Dame University and attended Case Institute for two years, joined the firm in 1939. He was named president in 1957. Mike, president since 1926, became chairman.

Son Jack, 39, with a degree in mechanical engineering from Tri-State College, learned the plumbing trade and became vice president in charge of plumbing. James, 35, a graduate of the University of Alabama, is office manager and accountant. Eugene E., 31, an alumnus of Georgetown University, is sales and promotion director.

Mike also has a daughter, Mrs. John E. Herrmann, and 12 grandchildren.

"Most significant change over the years was in materials, such as copper for water lines," said Mike. "Heating once was by cast iron radiation. Now we have base boards and panels in floors, air-conditioning, and snow-melting systems for sidewalks."

Major projects of Gorman-Lavelle included work on the bomber plant, the new Illuminating Bldg., East Ohio Bldg., Public Hall wings, colleges and schools and several hospitals.