James McHugh Construction Co

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James McHugh Construction Co.
Type Private
Industry Construction Management, General Contracting
Founded 1897
Founders James D. McHugh
Headquarters Chicago, USA
Key people James P. McHugh (Chairman)
Bruce Lake(President)
Revenue US$514 million(2007)
Employees 1,000
Website www.mchughconstuction.com

James McHugh Construction Co. is a privately owned company, and one of the largest construction managers and general contractors in the U.S. McHugh is known for constructing some of Chicago's most recognizable landmarks and one-of-a-kind structures including Marina City, Water Tower Place and Trump Tower, all of which were the world's tallest reinforced concrete structures at the time.


Founded in 1897 by James D. McHugh, an Irish bricklayer from Chicago's south side, McHugh Construction originally specialized in masonry work.

By the mid-1920s, James McHugh Construction Co. had established itself as a general contractor specializing in elaborate masonry work. During the Great Depression, McHugh continued to grow through projects funded by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Public Works Administration. From approximately 1930 on, McHugh Construction began sending crews across the country for heavy construction work, including water treatment systems and transportation tunnels. The postwar era of the 1940s and 1950s saw a rebirth of the market for vast institutional facilities and public works structures as Chicago struggled to keep pace with its booming population. To accommodate the growing need for health-care facilities, McHugh built additions to Cook County Hospital and a residence hall for Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Medical Center in 1955.

In the late 1950s, McHugh continued to centralize and grow in Chicago. Marina City was one of their next large projects. Designed by the architect Bertrand Goldberg, Marina City consists of two corn-cob-shaped towers that have since become one of Chicago's most recognizable landmarks. For this project, McHugh pioneered the use of fiberglass concrete forms that are still used for high-design curved concrete construction. Other than being the world's tallest concrete structure at the time, this project also marked the first use of the climbing crane, which paved the way for speedier, more efficient high-rise construction.

When a change in ownership occurred in the mid-1970s, the McHughs chose to sell a portion of the company to the employees, which predated the employee stock option trend by decades. Employees still own part of the company today.

Today, the founder's grandson, James P. McHugh serves as chairman of the firm and Bruce Lake is the company's current president. Lake was appointed this position in 1997, becoming the first non-family member in 100 years to lead the company.


Though most projects are located in the Chicago area today, McHugh was the first American contractor to open an office in Moscow after the fall of Communism. Between 1991 and 1999, McHugh had built for local and non-Russian clients including Dialog Bank, ABC News, Boeing Co. and Morgan Stanley.

Notable Projects[edit]

Some additional notable structures that McHugh has constructed in Chicago's cityscape include:

  • Goodman Theatre - A 125,000-square-foot (11,600 m2) theatre project that included new construction and renovation into an 850-seat Albert Ivar Goodman theatre and the 400-seat Owen Bruner Goodman theatre.
  • Civic Opera House Renovation - Partnered with Mesirow Stein Real Estate, McHugh Renovated this historic theatre including lobby and auditorium upgrades, installing new MEP systems and backstage rigging and scenery-handling equipment.
  • McCormick Place Expansion - The 1,100,000-square-foot (100,000 m2), $250 million exhibition hall covers two levels and is constructed over four active commuter rail lines and two freight lines.
  • Park Tower - Designed by Lucien Lagrange, Park Tower is a 67 story high rise multiuse structure that houses the Park Hyatt Hotel as well as 475,000 square feet (44,100 m2) of luxury condominium space. McHugh installed Chicago's first massed tuned damper in the structure to minimize the building sway caused by high winds.
  • Chicago Board of Trade - A 400,000-square-foot (37,000 m2) addition to the CBOT that includes the world's largest trading floor. McHugh developed the unusual structural table design – four concrete cores at each corner of the building topped by structural steel trusses – which provide a column-free trading floor.
  • Arlington Park - Designed by SOM, built in 21 months, this project included 325 acres (1.32 km2) of site work.
  • Trump Tower - Designed by Adrian Smith of SOM, Trump Tower is the world's tallest concrete structure, a 92 story tower consisting of 2,600,000 square feet (240,000 m2) that will rise to 1,145 feet (349 m) topped with a 217 feet (66 m) spire bringing its total height to 1,362 feet (415 m). It will contain about 472 residential condominiums, a 286 unit condominium hotel, 1000 space parking garage, and retail space. McHugh has the task of pouring the concrete structure and will pour more than 180,000 cubic yards (140,000 m3) of concrete in just under three years.
  • Battle Stations 21 - A 500-foot (150 m) long reduced scale replica of a portion of a ship, floating in water, within a 171,000-square-foot (15,900 m2) building. This structure includes layer upon layer of the latest technology to create a realistic battle experience.
  • Aqua - The design of the 82-story, mixed-use tower has received international attention for the undulating waves of concrete that will make up the balconies. Its exterior features a rippling effect that architect Jeanne Gang says mirrors the striated limestone outcroppings and formations that can be seen throughout the Great Lakes.
  • The Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum - A 73,000-square-foot (6,800 m2) facility and the first new museum built in Chicago's parks in more than 60 years.