If one was ever interested in taking a visual history lesson about Chicago Heights, a visit to Chicago Heights Construction Company would do the trick.
The business, at 1535 Otto Blvd., has been building structures for more than 100 years and has the photos to prove it.
Walking through the hallways of Chicago Heights Construction is like a time warp, as black and white photos of homes built in the early '20s along Country Club Road decorate the path.
Patch stopped by to see how this business, which began in 1908, has survived the Great Depression and multiple recessions. We spoke with Dan Bergin along with his sons Dan Jr. and Tim Bergin.
How long have you been in business?
Dan Sr. - We've been in business over 100 years. The business was started by my father before I was born. My father took it over after his business partner died.
I was born in 1920. When I was 15 years old, I began working in the office. It was at the end of the depression, there was no action. My father was the Chicago Heights postmaster at the time and he was also mayor until 1935.
My brother Jack was part of the business until he passed away in 1982. Then the boys came into the business, (Dan Jr. and Tim) and now their sons work here as well.
There are 5 generations of this business. I give credit to my father, Dan Patrick Bergin that we survived this long.
What made him want to start a local business?
Dan Sr. - My father came from Ireland. He was a carpenter and a very aggressive guy. He became a partner and together they started the business. They started out building a bunch of homes along Country Club Road. They still exist today.
What are your specialties?
Dan Jr. - I would say that it is building public buildings, making modifications and renovations. We've gone into the higher-end bonded public work of the construction industry. Our geographical area would take us north to Chicago metro, west to Joliet, south to Kankakee and to the east we've gone into Indiana.
Any tips for someone looking for a construction company?
Tim - They should look for more than one bid. Don't just take the lowest number. Review a history of the company such as if the company has liens against them.
How many lawsuits are they in as far as workman's compensation? Make sure they are safe and if they have a good track record. Get references and make sure they pay their bills and their subs. Find out what's their insurance MOD, and are they local?
What's been your favorite construction project?
Dan Sr. - I think was one of my favorite projects. Then . I was there in 1928 to help lay the cornerstone. I was 8 years old at the time and an alter boy. Then we came back years later to do the addition.
Tim - Argonne National Laboratory has been the best project we've had in my opinion. In 1948 there are records of Chicago Heights Construction working there. My dad was the contact for Argonne, he did a lot of work there. When he got to the age of 82, Dan Jr. took over. Through the influx of larger projects, I took the reins. The account at Argonne has been very nice. It's less competitive bidding. Another project I enjoyed was the Sauk Village Community Center, which was dedicated in 2008. That was a state of the art newer construction made of block and brick.
Dan Jr. - Two jobs come to mind, one has to do with the past history, and our company is all about history. It was the Pullman project. It wasn't extremely profitable, but we stayed on through bad conditions and finished it. It is such a landmark. In fact right now, we are being considered to do the work at Hotel Florence.
The other job that meant a lot to me was the . That was a two-and-a-half year project over on Division street in Chicago Heights. A brand new school! Not that the other schools weren't rewarding, being for handicapped kids and watching those kids go to the school everyday in a facility we built is rewarding. It was pretty emotional at the ribbon cutting. I was so proud of our company and this town.
Is your company involved in the community?
Dan Jr. - I've been the chairperson for the Chicago Heights Business Council the last five years. What the business council is, we meet once a month at a local business or the or , or here. We talk over what's happening in the town, the development along Route 30 and any other business ideas the council comes up with. We meet for one hour.
The goal is to retain business in Chicago Heights, promote business and to attract business.
Tim - You cut your own throat with specials in this type of business. The public are getting jobs at rock bottom prices. We are being selective in the right projects.
Where are your favorite local places to eat and shop?
Dan Sr. - I go to . I shop at , their fish is great. Chicago Heights used to be the best place to eat. Now the good restaurants are gone."
Dan Jr. - Most of my shopping is sports related, so you'll find me at Sports Authority in Matteson. We frequent . They have great food. is also another great place to eat. I miss Cio's in Matteson."
Tim - Carlos in Chicago Heights is my favorite. You can always find something good their. I shopped at Jewel, now that's closed so I am heading back to . Cipriani's, Tivoli's they're gone. My parents used to take us there when we were little. They are gone by the wayside, just a sign of the times.