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August 18, 2022

Granite Construction celebrates 100 years

WATSONVILLE—It has been one century since Granite Construction was founded,  and since then it has become a construction juggernaut, with subsidiaries throughout the U.S. and projects that include dams, interstate highways, airport runways and skyscrapers.

The company celebrated its centennial birthday on June 23 at its Beach Street headquarters, in an event that featured 200 people including current President and CEO Kyle Larkin, as well as former CEOs Bill Dorey and David Watts.

Watsonville Mayor Ari Parker presented the company with a proclamation, and Senator John Laird and U.S. Representative Jimmy Panetta sent their own proclamations.

“Today is about celebrating people,” Larkin told the crowd. “Those who came before and built our company, and all of us who are now taking Granite into the next century.”

While 1922 marked the year Granite Construction became its own entity—separating from Graniterock—both companies date back to the early 1900s, not long after Watsonville was founded. 

That’s when surveyor Henry Blohm discovered a rich supply of granite near Watsonville. John T. Porter, his son Warren and A.R. Wilson bought the Logan Quarry from Judge James Harvey Logan for $10,000 in gold coins.

The Granite Rock Company was incorporated on Feb. 14, 1900.

At the time, the Graniterock paid 15 men a whopping $1.75 per day, which adjusted for inflation is roughly $52, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. 

But the work was in no way equivalent to today’s standards, since they worked grueling 10-hour shifts, producing about 175 tons of granite per day for about 17 cents per hour.

The company grew as a building boom occurred in the early 1900s, and struggled but survived as the Great Depression began to take hold of the country.

The bleak financial picture began to change in the 1930s, when Granite built the first roads into Yosemite National Park, finishing the road to Glacier Point in 1936.

As the years passed by, the company also built parts of Interstate 80, and helped prepare Squaw Valley for the 1960 Olympics, in addition to building I-75 in Atlanta for the 1996 Olympics.

Its work also includes Donner Pass, as well as large-scale dam projects and part of the 444-mile-long California Aqueduct.

Granite also built BART’s Powell Street Station in 1972 and seven stations for the Washington Metro Transit Authority.

Granite expanded into New York City in 2000, and would soon thereafter help rebuild the World Trade Center after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Notable work also includes a $500 million superhighway in Maryland and a rebuild of the Tappan Zee Bridge in New York.

The company was also responsible for much of the work on Fort Ord and the Watsonville Navy Air Station, and Highway 101, the first major artery connecting California.

“Our history is California’s history, and even the U.S.’s history,” Larkin said. “The impact that we have made in the communities where we have lived and worked is tremendous.”

Wilkinson, widely considered the company’s founder, authored in 1940 the “Founder’s Guide for Future Generations,” which to this day makes up the backbone of Granite’s corporate philosophy.

The 11-point list among other things encourages employees to follow the Golden Rule, respect the rights of others, exercise patience and good cheer, keep appointments and fulfill promises promptly.

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