University Mechanical Contractors, Inc. was initially known as The University Plumbing Co. when the doors opened. At this time, it was owned and operated by G.W. Tibbets, and was located at 3939 14th Ave NE, which is now known as University Avenue. In 1920, the Granston family purchased University Plumbing. According to tax records, volume for that first full year was $141,000.
In 1956, University Plumbing & Heating was officially incorporated in the State of Washington and changed its name to University Mechanical Contractors, Incorporated. In 1964, the University Avenue location was sold, and the company built and opened a new office at 130th and Stone. In 2001, after 30+ years at the Seattle location, UMC purchased a piece of property and built a new state-of-the-art office, warehouse, and fabrication shop in Mukilteo.
From humble beginnings as a residential shop in the early 1900s, UMC has thrived through significant historical movements. The Great Depression, a world war, a recession in the 70s, a technology boom in the 90s, and the economic downturn of 2008. In fact, in its nearly 100-year history, UMC has stayed financially healthy, playing a vital role in developing the region’s landscape and building a dedicated employee force.
A few of UMC’s most iconic projects include:
The Space Needle. This famous Seattle landmark was built in 1961, with a project timeline of only one year and four days in order to be featured at the Seattle Century 21 World’s Fair. As the mechanical contractor on the project, UMC was challenged by a tight deadline and a tricky installation scenario. One of UMC’s retired project managers, Tinney Scott, came out of his retirement to serve as the project lead. He had previously worked as a pipefitter on the Alaska Yukon Pacific Exposition project from 1908-1909, as well as many other key projects. It seems impossible to believe that Tinney worked on two world expositions, 52 years apart.
Since The Space Needle’s construction was completed, UMC has been engaged in various maintenance project, including a 2000 project that included complete replacement of the cooling tower, chillers, pumps, and associated piping. All equipment was disassembled then lifted using the Space Needle’s elevator, and reassembled in place on top of the 600 ft. structure.
Columbia Center Tower. The tallest building west of Chicago, IL, and north of Houston, TX, the Columbia Center Tower stands 937 feet and has 76 above ground floors as well as seven floors reserved for underground parking. Construction was completed in 1985, and the building was originally supposed to be 1,005 feet. However, the FAA required a reduction in height for the project given its proximity to Sea-Tac Airport. In order to retain the same amount of leasable space, 6 inches were removed from each office floor.
Northgate Mall. It’s tough to imagine America before shopping malls, but this facility was the first regional shopping center defined as a “mall” in the country. Set on 62 acres north of Seattle, the Bon Marché planned a three-story, $3 million store at the south end of the complex. Other tenants signing on early were the National Bank of Commerce, an A&P grocery store, Ernst Hardware, Newberry’s, and Nordstrom. UMC worked with Howard S. Wright and renowned architect John Graham to provide full mechanical services for this landmark project.