The History of One Meade
Working out of a rented storefront on Madison Street near Spaulding, Dempsey and Meade converted gas lighting to electric lighting in neighborhood buildings.
Edward R. Hansen, a general construction foreman at Commonwealth Edison, joined Meade Electric as head construction supervisor in 1920. He made the acquaintance of Joseph Lizzadro who, at the age of 22, had already been employed at Meade for four years.
Throughout the ’20s Meade secured additional contracts such as the Graemere Hotel, the Midwest Athletic Club and the Golden Dome Building in Garfield Park.
On October 29, 1929, the stock market collapsed. At Meade Electric, management curtailed unnecessary activities and reduced expenses. Little work was contracted until 1933. Lizzadro and Hansen each drew $15 per week.
Lineman were paid 90 cents an hour and a superintendent earned $50 a week. The cost of the entire 30-man payroll at Meade was approximately $650 a week. Many of the experienced journeymen who joined Meade were former Commonwealth Edison employees, and their skills enhanced Meade’s reputation in the electrical construction field.
By the end of the decade, fluorescent lighting had moved and 90 percent of new homes had either electric or gas refrigerators.
With the assistance of Robert Magnetti of U.S. Steel, Meade acquired other jobs from the U.S. Steel headquarters in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. This knowledge and training led to better coordination with the steel company’s engineering staff and, ultimately, to numerous steel plant, oil refinery and other heavy industrial projects in the Gary-Hammond area.
Within a short time, Meade had two large customers in the Hammond area: the General American Transportation Company and U.S. Steel. The need for a regional office became apparent.
Meade was called in by companies with government contracts, such as Binks Manufacturing, General American Transportation, Grebe Shipyards and Groen Manufacturing, to help increase their electrical capacity to meet the requirements of war-production commitment. Meade worked to install new motors and rewired equipment and presses for the additional power needed to meet this increased emergency production.
In Hammond, the rapid growth of the company required larger office space. Land was acquired to erect permanent quarters containing both office and shop space. In April 1949, Meade Electric Company of Indiana moved from the Calumet Bank Building into its new building at 1825 Summer Street in Hammond.
When Binks Manufacturing moved its operation from Chicago to Franklin Park, Illinois, Meade wired over 300,000 square feet of space for the new production and engineering operations.
While on this project, Meade became involved in on-the-job fabrication of special heavy-metal junction boxes and support brackets. As the tradesmen became more skilled at their tasks and the work continued at an increasing tempo, Joseph Lizzadro created a separate department to provide metal fabrication for the steel mill work.
A separate electronics department was formed when the Indiana Toll Road Commission awarded Meade the contract for maintaining a two-way radio and microwave communication network across the state of Indiana. By the late ’60’s the shop had diversified to include the sale, installation and service of closed-circuit television systems.
About the same time, Meade Electric Company purchased Braley Electric Service, Inc. of Westmont, Illinois, from Lewis Unsbee. Braley’s experienced personnel, active in the area, enabled Meade to pursue light industrial work throughout DuPage County.
Growth in the electronics field also provided expansion opportunities and Meade opened an electronics shop in Chicago at the Harrison Street facility.
Construction work in Hammond moved at a brisk pace with jobs for the Arco Refinery, Bethlehem Steel, U.S. Steel, Inland Steel and Northern Indiana Public Service.
The Hammond fabrication shop doubled its volume and outgrew its space.
The Highway Sign Division was opened in Joliet to erect and maintain highway and auxiliary road signs.
The Hammond office continued to service the steel industry. Major projects, including construction of blast furnace #13, the largest in the Western hemisphere, for the U.S. Steel plant in Gary, Indiana, and Inland Steel’s mammoth 42-foot-diameter furnace completed in 1980, had earned Meade a favorable reputation in the heavy industrial market.
In Joliet, the Construction Division applied its expertise to the design, engineering, software and installation of closed-loop fire detection systems for Commonwealth Edison at its fossil-fueled generating plants in Joliet, Chicago and Peoria.
At the Highway Maintenance Division, extensive development and innovation in software for computerized traffic signal control systems enabled Meade to monitor operations and make adjustments by telephone interconnect. State-of-the-art programmable controllers and microprocessors introduced an era of advanced automation in traffic signal maintenance, with Meade in the forefront.
Among the notable projects from Meade’s recently formed Building Automation and Life Safety Department was the Chicago Freight Tunnel, which utilized the abandoned underground system. Meade installed the state-of-the-art fiber optic system that used 100 percent digital technology capable of transmitting 1.7 billion bits of information per second over a single pair of glass fibers and provided links to many major Chicago buildings.
Meade began its three-year contract for construction of the 1-million-square-floor Chicago U.S. Post Office, replacing the existing building with a state-of-the-art- general mail facility.
Ten years after completing work for the opening of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange lower trading floor, Meade once again was on hand for the opening – this time of the upper trading floor – when the CME became “the World’s Largest Marketplace.”
Projects for diverse organizations continued – from the Qwest Communications’ Midwest regional telephone switch at the Lyric Opera House to Kraft Foods’ new cold storage plant in Kane County to providing underground duct banks for high voltage cabling in Commonwealth Edison’s Oak Brook and Rolling Meadows switch yards.
An important project – and an usual one – was the Buffington harbor River Boat Casino facility in Gary, IN. Meade was involved with its many aspects, from relocating power lines and distribution to hanging the chandeliers. Meade is responsible for electrical maintenance of the boats themselves.
An interesting project for Mobil Oil was the installation of a two-mile-long, German-designed continuous-tube conveyor belt that encloses coke, the coal-like waste from the oil-refining process, by forming a tube around the dusty material. That tube then transports the coke one mile to the river where it is loaded into barges for shipping. The new process eliminated continuous trucking of the coke and it much more environmentally responsible.
Completed the Illinois Tollway I-90 Managed Lanes project.