All in the family since 1888

VERGENNESThe historic city of Vergennes is home to H.J. LeBoeuf & Son, Inc., one of the longest-standing family-owned establishments located at 210 Main St. HJL Inc. has operated for five generations as a general contracting firm specializing in a diverse range of custom residential, commercial and restoration projects. Norman LeBoeuf, president, carries on the Vergennes family tradition. The family business was started in 1888 by Normans great, great grandfather, Charles Lewis, who began with commercial and residential general contracting. C.L. went into business for himself after the completion of Vergennes St. Peters Roman Catholic Church. His son, John, continued until 1933 when C.L.'s grandson Howard John took over as H.J. LeBouef & Son. Both H.J. Sr. and his son, H.J. Jr., ran the business out of their homes across the street from one another. Howard John, Jr. incorporated the business in 1963. Although H.J. Jr. retired 25 years ago, he at age 87 and his wife Catherine, age 86, continue to reside in Vergennes. H.J.s sons, Norman and Lee, the fifth generation, brought HJL Inc. into the computer age and expanded the base of the business. Both Norman and Lees educational backgrounds ensure quality and creative craftsmanship. Norman had attended Wentworth Institute in Boston in 1965-1967, the University of Virginia School of Architecture from 1967-1969, and graduated from the University of Nebraska of Engineering and Construction Science in 1971. Upon Normans graduation, he joined forces with his father. Lee joined the company in 1980 at which time the brothers relocated the company to the Stevens House, another landmark built in the late 18th century. In 2005 HJL Inc. moved to its current location in the Wheeler Building built in 1885. Lee graduated from Kansas State University School of Architecture and served his apprenticeship with the Burley Partnership and Freeman French Freeman Architects. Lee and Norman upgraded the business to a full-fledged design/build firm. Eventually Lee had moved to St. Louis to join HOK, an international architectural firm. However, Lees son, Thomas, continues the tradition of fine construction for the sixth generation at a St. Louis branch of HJL Inc. The test of time, shall determine when and if Thomas shall return to the Vergennes family roots. Norman reflects on the success of the family business by saying, It is quite unusual for any business to remain in construction for six generations due to the ups and downs in the economy. Each generation, to one degree to another, reinvented themselves. Some of the restoration/renovation projects undertaken over the 119-year history of the family business include the Stevens Residence (1870) and St. Peters Roman Catholic Church and Rectory both done in conjunction with Joseph Falardo. C.L. built the Bridport Masonic Hall in 1891 and H.J. LeBoeuf restored it in 1991. Three generations have renovated the Chittenden Bank in Vergennes at various times from 1940 through 1978. Ben & Jerrys first retail shop started life as a Gulf Oil service station built by H.J. Jr. in 1948. In 1985 a meticulous restoration of the 1812 Tavern in Charlotte represented a textbook preservation/restoration effort. While most projects are located in Vermont, H.J. LeBoeuf has also done projects in Massachusetts, Main, New Hampshire, and New York. One of the more high profile projects that Norman was involved with was the renovation/restoration of the Vergennes Opera House built in 1897. By the early 1970s the Opera House had deteriorated having been closed for 24 years. A group of volunteers, known as The Friends of the Vergennes Opera House, raised $1.5 million in a grassroots effort to restore the building, which reopened in 1997. As Project Manager of the construction effort, LeBoeuf guided efforts to free the pigeons, repair the leaking roof, stabilize the structure, install a heating and air conditioning system, new restrooms, new finishes, lighting system, and technical improvements to the performing stage. The Opera House remains the cultural and educational hub of Vergennes, as well as home to the City Hall offices. In past years, LeBouef has also offered community service to the Vergennes Union High School. Students have done internships at HJL Inc.; Norman has spoken to the architecture design class, and he has served on the jury for the students final semester projects. Additionally, he has taken students on tours of the Vergennes historic buildings, as well as an on-site tour of his custom-design/built home. LeBouef and office manager Paula Roeloffs serve the need of light commercial and residential construction projects in Vermont. The firm maintains a crew of between 10 and 12 offering expertise and fine craftsmanship.

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