Millwork Legend OB Williams Turns 122
By Cindy Baccetti | Posted: 11/17/2011 4:07PM
FAIRHAVEN, WA - In 1889, only 43 years after the settlement of the U.S.-British border dispute establishing the United States' northern border at the 49th parallel, and the same year that Washington became our 42nd state, Owen B. Williams founded the O.B. Williams Company in Fairhaven, Washington.
O.B. Williams Company has more than 120 years of experience manufacturing custom woodwork. For the last several decades, its primary focus has been on providing custom architectural woodwork for high end private residences and landmark commercial buildings.
Over the past 122 years, they have not only survived, but thrived. And in this time of uncertainty and fear for so many business owners, O.B. Williams Company has learned to take the long view, a more than century-long view it turns out.
In 1902, O.B. Williams Company moved to Seattle, in the midst of a recession following the stock crash of 1901. However the business flourished due to a building boom lasting from 1900 to 1910. By 1911 they constructed and moved into a 40,000 square foot store and factory on First Avenue South, adjacent to the company's current SODO location.
The company persevered as the country struggled with the panic of 1910-1911, a mild but lengthy recession where the national product grew by less than 1% and commercial and industrial activity declined. There would be many more financially troubled times in the century that followed and in the 122 years since its' founding. In fact O.B. Williams Company has survived a total of 26 recessions and learned valuable lessons along the way.
After Williams' death in 1924, rumor has it that he willed the company to his employees; however the court found the employees were insufficiently identified and gave the business to his widow Hannah and the real estate to his son Lawrence Williams. As the roaring twenties raged on, O.B. Williams Company continued to operate and survived the Great Depression of 1929. The business was eventually sold to Joe Burke and Ray McCoy and incorporated in 1942.
The decades of the 1950's, 60's, 70's and 80's provided seven more recessions and invaluable lessons about surviving in a sea of economic uncertainty including the need to be versatile within your area of expertise without jumping ship to an entirely new field.
Although over the years O.B. Williams Company's focus has changed slightly from large scale manufacturing and distribution of windows and doors to custom manufacturing of fine architectural woodwork, they have continued to provide doors, paneling, cabinets and millwork for all manner of commercial buildings, hotels and even the last great concert hall to be built in the 20th century, Benaroya Hall.
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