John C. Kohler was a steamfitter by trade. He was Outside Superintendent for S. Faith and Co. when he decided to go out on his own. As the story goes he and Nate Sherman - S. Faith's blacksmith - resigned from Faith on the same day in 1928. Nate founded Sherman Pipe and Hangar Co., while my grandfather established John C. Kohler Co. The two young companies helped each other to get off the ground, and even shared a truck in the early years.
John C. Kohler Co. operated as a proprietorship from 1928 until its incorporation in 1958. During this time the company performed work for many owners in the Philadelphia area. The young firm's largest customers were the School District of Philadelphia and Publicker Distillery. The company also performed the mechanical work for the new Central High School at Broad and Olney in 1936. While most of the work was within city limits, in the 1940s the company began to venture into what were then the seemingly "far out" suburbs for such jobs as Fountain Piping at Longwood Gardens, additions to Abington High School, and Gratersford Prison, among others.
At about the time of the company's incorporation John C. Kohler became ill. Consequently his oldest son John J. Kohler Sr., who had been active in the business since the 1930s aside from a short absence to serve in the Army during World War II, assumed his father's role as the new company's new president. The new generation brought with it growth in the company - over one hundred Philadelphia school contracts were completed, and eight General Electric buildings and seven Western Electric buildings were constructed, to name but a few. The John C. Kohler Co. also took part in the historic UNIVAC project, which marked the birth of the computer revolution, with the construction of three buildings in Blue Bell, PA. John J. Kohler Sr. was commended by the U.S. Navy, which awarded him Notable Citations for his work in the Naval Test Propulsion Facility in Lakehurst, NJ. He directed and grew the company until his retirement in 1980.
The third and fourth generation continue the company's long tradition of unmatched quality and pride in its work today. After moving the firm to Lansdale, PA in 1985, it has completed schools and office buildings such as Saint David's Office Center and Crown Cork & Seal's new headquarters. In addition, the company has begun to do a larger amount of business in retail. Many regional malls and department stores have been completed, and the firm was instrumental in the construction, renovation, and additions to the Court, Plaza, and Pavilion at King of Prussia Mall as well as its parking garages. This includes the removal of the DX rooftop equipment we had previously installed and the conversion to central plant chilled water - all performed while the mall was open with minimal impact to tenants. This was approximately 7,000 tons of chiller capacity. The King of Prussia Mall now stands as one of the largest malls in the United States. The John C. Kohler Co. has probably done more malls than any other mechanical contractor working with its own forces.
The John C. Kohler Co. will continue its long tradition forward.