Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Engineered to Last

Frontenac Engineering Honors Pittzman’s 150 Years
Engineering the future with a nod to the past.

William (Bill) Berthold returns to his offices located at 2725 Sutton Boulevard, on an unseasonably cool summer day in late August, in the business district of Maplewood (MO).He’s just back from a meeting across the river that ran a bit long. He’s gracious and apologetic at the same time. The scheduled lunch meeting was set to discuss the remarkable history his company. Frontenac Engineering was acquired from his Uncle in 1991. He is quick to get to the business of our meeting. He wants to make sure up front that he is particularly proud of the capable staff in place at Frontenac Engineering. Frontenac Engineering and Pitzman’s Company combined have twenty (20) dedicated employees. But the part of his business he wants to talk about most is the history that came with the acquisition that made him the owner of one of St. Louis area most enduring brand names in the land surveying: Pitzsman’s Company.

“I just didn’t want this reputable brand to vanish,” says Bill Berthold. “The history of Pitzman’s Company is contained in countless volumes of carefully preserved city documents in the vault at Frontenac Engineering. They are cataloged and cross referenced in what we like to call Pitzman’s Coffin. The Coffin is a simple wooden box with land maps and a numbering system arranged neatly in the bin for cross reference to numbered volumes stacked nearby. Bill is like a kid in a candy store when he gestures toward the bound volumes in the vault. “I love this stuff.” says Bill, on this, another nickel tour of the space they’ve occupied since1996. “We are looking at the oldest and best records in the city,” adds Bill Berthold. “We want the brand name to live on alongside Frontenac Engineering because we are committed to the same values that are so apparent in the story of the success and quality of the Pitzman’s Company. Who knows, maybe people will look at both company brand names in another 150 years and point to a similarly impressive body of evidence. I hope so”     

Pittsman’s Company of Surveyors and Engineers was established in 1859 by Julius Pitzman who’s own history offers insight into the country and the St. Louis region. Pitzman’s Company data, analysis, land surveying and engineering are now in the hands of the Frontenac Engineering twenty person-staff. They are dedicated to all aspects of real estate and land development.

The founder, Julius Pittzman, was the son of Frederick G and Amalia (Ebert) Pitzman and born in Halberstadt, Prussia in 1837. He moved to America in the 1850’s with his mother and lived in Milwaukee before moving to St. Louis. He served as deputy county surveyor of St. Louis before engaging in the general practice of surveying. He was commissioned at the outbreak of the Civil War and eventually was appointed by William T. Sherman as chief topographical engineer.

Julius was one of the prime movers in advocating Forest Park and was considered something of a real estate expert being a pioneer in developing land with deed restrictions. The notion of land development with deed restrictions in Pitzman’s day, was thought impossible by prominent Attorneys under American laws at the time. Much of what Pitzman developed has become the model by which many of the great cities in the United States owe a debt today.

Berthold recognizes the awesome responsibility of keeping the memory and history alive. As President of Frontenac Engineering, he himself is a registered professional engineer and land surveyor (in Missouri and Illinois). He has over 20 years of experience but is humbled by the massive amounts of records he now controls from the legacy of Julius Pitzman. Recounting the story of the acquisition of the Pitzman’s Company, Bill reports that he simply contacted the company at the right time. He reached Roy Leimberg, President of the of Pitzman’s Company, to inquire about interest in selling. To his surprise Roy responded “So you saw our ad in Surveyors Magazine offering the Business for Sale.” Stunned that the company was available, Berthold arranged financing and finished the deal in 2005. “Roy had become the owner of Pitzman’s and had been an employee for 52 years at the time of that negotiation. Call it a confluence of events and a bit of serendipity. I feel very fortunate in this whole thing. Pitzman’s Company is a great fit with the company. We want to be as we continue to grow. In particular, I was happy to be dealing with the graceful influence of Roy Leimberg. You just can’t give a guy like that enough credit for the company traditions of excellence and carrying the legacy forward.”

“Frontenac Engineering with Pitzman’s Company is a perfect complement to our business. We concentrate on Land Surveying, Contract Administration and Civil and Structural Engineering. I’m delighted to be the guardian of this historic company legacy,” says Berthold, adding “Better me than one of our competitors. We’re going to do everything we can to live up to this history that dates back more than 150 years. “I think we’ll have a painting of our founder commissioned in his Civil War era uniform. I’m pretty sure my uncle would understand.” 

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