Celebrating the builders: Dunlap & Co. celebrates 150 years of iconic projects

Photo provided Dunlap General Contractors owners Brian King and Tom Dowd prepare to introduce Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop, who read a proclamation honoring the company for 150 years of community involvement.

Dunlap General Contractors celebrated its 150th year in business at its Columbus facility on Friday night, celebrating a history that includes a wide variety of building projects well-known to the community and region.

Partners Tom Dowd and Brian King shared highlights of the company’s history at the event. The celebration included barbecue and music by 3 Beards Strummin’.

Dowd commented that Dunlap has made it 150 years by “Keeping up with changes in the market, regulatory requirements and technology. We have embraced innovation and responded to the needs of the community.”

He stressed the importance of the Columbus community to the company’s success, commenting that Dunlap is “working to remain a trusted partner for generations.”

King was a teenager at the time of the company’s 100th anniversary, saying at that time, “I had no way of knowing how close my life would be tied to the company.” He added, “You can’t be 150 years old and not change with the way the world changes, and be successful.”

Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop was a special guest at the event, reading a proclamation about the company’s long history with Bartholomew County and Columbus.

The proclamation noted that in 1873, J.R. Dunlap started Dunlap & Co. at the corner of Fifth and Jackson streets in Columbus, consisting of a milling, planing and kiln drying operation.

The company incorporated in 1924 and established several retail operations throughout south central Indiana, expanding into material distribution and general contracting.

During the 1930s Depression years, the company promoted home building by combining all services – plans, construction, and financing – and took the innovative step of hiring a registered architect to create owner plans.

During World War II (1941-1945), Dunlap started building housing, hospitals, and airports in Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. In 1945, Dunlap expanded into other areas to complement their original business, according to the company’s historical archives.

By 1957, Dunlap & Co. had three new divisions, Dunlap Construction, Dunlap Mechanical and Dunlap Building Materials.

In the 1960s, Dunlap began creating housing developments in Columbus and in the region — some of the neighborhoods built during this period include Mead Village, Meadowbrook, Circle Terrace, Eastgate, Northgate and Fairlawn additions. Subdivisions were also created in Shelbyville, Seymour, North Vernon, Madison and Edinburgh.

Dunlap also had a large role with buildings in Columbus associated with the city’s architecture program, according to its archives. Some notable buildings built by Dunlap include Lillian Schmitt Elementary (1957), W.D. Richards Elementary, Lincoln Elementary, the Cleo Rogers Memorial Library and Columbus Fire Station No. 4. The company also built Fire Station No. 1 (1941) on Washington Street and Donner Center and Donner Aquatics Center (1948)

In 1970 Jerald B. Dunlap announced a merger with Southwest Forest Industries — by 1974, Southwest Forest reorganized, extracting the building materials division from Dunlap abnd setting up that companya s Southwest Forest Industries, Dunlap Division.

Dennis E. King purchased a majority of the outstanding stock, becoming president, and Dunlap constructed a new office building at its present location.

During the 1980s, Dunlap’s 24/7 Service Department was established with 12 technicians who cover the state of Indiana.

In 1991, King purchased all remaining stock, becoming sole owner, and in 2000, Brian King, his son, became sole owner.

Tom Dowd became partner and co-owner in 2020, with the company reaching its 150th anniversary this year.

Lienhoop declared Friday as Dunlap & Company Inc. Day in Columbus, wishing them continued success.

Included in the company’s project gallery are the following projects, (not an all-inclusive list)

  • Columbus East High School
  • Columbus Regional Health main campus
  • Georg Utz, Inc.
  • Bartholomew County Court Services
  • Schneck Medical Center
  • First Financial Bank
  • Bartholomew County REMC
  • Chevrolet of Columbus
  • Cleo Rogers Memorial Library
  • The Commons
  • St. Bartholomew Catholic Church
  • United Way of Bartholomew County