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Explore Our Rich History in Lexington

2000 - Present: Insisting on Nothing but the Best

Harper Roofing Owner Ben Harper

This century has been a time of extreme. The economy was doing fine, in spite of the shocking events of 9/11. In the Bluegrass area, periods of weather extremes including violent weather, created business opportunities but also proved to attract fringe operators who entered the market to handle the overload. Problems with attention to detail and failure at following the manufacturer’s printed instructions found on each package has continued to create problems for homeowners and the reputation of the industry. We continue to be blessed with a good work force and the confidence to continue to insist on using the best materials and providing a trouble-free product that requires little maintenance other than routine housekeeping. We also continue to be blessed with clientele that appreciate that good workmanship and materials provide protection that is less costly in the long run when compared to the cheap bid.   

1990 - 2000: The Devil's in the Details

 

With the contraction of much of the thoroughbred economy, J. D. Harper and Sons was still blessed with work at Mr. Young’s Overbrook Farm. Several large projects went forward there using Hendricks tile, a fire-proof, concrete roofing product manufactured in Richmond, VA; this tile was also used at Historic Williamsburg. It was becoming apparent that in the midst of the fantastic large homes being built in the suburbs of Lexington, there was either a lack of attention to detail or a lack of execution by the sub-contractors installing these roofs for the builders or owners. As with other things, “the devil is in the details” and roofing is no different. The details that were usually found wanting were in the flashings—valleys, chimneys, and vents, which are the most expensive part of the roof per square foot since they can do the most massive interior damage if installed incorrectly.

1980 - 1990: Keeping With Tradition

 

The beginning of the 1980’s began with several large privately negotiated shopping center jobs and additional growth in the horse industry negotiated by Pat, then in 1981 once things were underway, he retired. As Keeneland expanded and W. T. Young established Overbrook Farm, J. D. Harper and Sons continued to transition from providing mainly commercial roofing products to providing what were becoming the specialty products including standing seam copper and tin, concrete and clay tile roofing all of which requires a knowledge of the traditional methods, mechanical principles, and the continued belief that, regardless of the economy, there are no short-cuts in materials or methods when protecting your property from the effects of Mother Nature. 

1970 - 1980: A Time of Transition

 

The 70’s were a time of transition. Bill retired in 1971 to enjoy his grandchildren and serve at his church. His son, Bucky, also left to pursue other endeavors. Pat and Doug continued operating until Pat was hospitalized and a younger son, Ben, left his position as a telephone engineer to help out until his father was better. Ben had done summer work in the 60’s prior to college with the built-up crew and with the shingling crew on the Central KY Vo-tech project. The three of them operated the business with Pat as the majority owner and the sons as the minority partners. Much of the work at this time was commercial work involving asphalt build up roofing and metal roofing, such as standing seam copper and tin. During this time, expansion was beginning at Keeneland Race Track, several Fayette County schools were being renovated, and several churches were expanding for which JD Harper & Sons were the successful bidders. Additionally JDH was selected to do some slate roofing on breeding complexes of expanding horse farms, such as Ashford Stud.

1960 - 1970: Losing a Leader

 

In addition to construction in the public sector, the private sector construction was growing dramatically to accommodate the new graduates of the GI bill.  IBM and General Electric entered or expanded in Lexington, along with LOF Glass, and others. Growing with the economy were new families, which required enlarging existing schools and churches or building new ones. J. D. Harper and Sons had more than its share of work, being the contractor of roofing for the Central Kentucky Vocational Technical campus, Immanuel Baptist Church relocation, and others, and new firms were establishing in Lexington whose owners had their roots as former J. D. Harper employees. J. D. Sr., who retired in 1960, leaving the business to be run by the sons, Pat and Bill, passed away in 1966. The sons’ sons, J. D. III (Doug) and William H. Jr. (Bucky) had attended college and were working at learning the business from the ground up, while raising young families. 

1950 - 1960: Higher Educators Hire JD Harper & Sons

 

With the influx of returning servicemen and the GI bill, never before had so many found higher education affordable. Government building shifted from war materiel storage to the construction of classroom and dormitory buildings at the colleges and universities throughout the United States, and J. D. Harper and Sons was the contractor of choice to do the slate and tar and gravel built up roofing for these buildings at the University of Kentucky, Transylvania College, Centre College in Danville, Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, Georgetown College in Georgetown, KY, Eastern Kentucky Teachers College in Richmond, and others. Two landmark slate projects during this time was the College of the Bible in Lexington and the Cane Ridge Shrine outside of Paris, Kentucky, both of which are continuing to serve today, a testament to the fine slate chosen and produced by the Rising and Nelson quarries in New York and installed by J. D. Harper and Sons.

1940 - 1950: Business During WWII

 

With the onset of World War II, the United States Government played catch-up in preparing to fight a sustained conflict and began developing supply depots, one of which was outside of Lexington at Avon. As construction wood and steel materials were being rationed and diverted from private construction to the war effort, flat roof design was the most cost efficient method to cover row after row of storage warehouses. J. Harper Roofing 1940's TruckD. Harper and Sons was the principle contractor for this construction at Avon. Tobacco production geared up and storage facilities in and around Lexington were built to house tobacco for market. Thousands of square feet of roofing, and hundreds of wire-glass, low profile skylights were being manufactured by hand in our shops on West Short Street for installation in the tobacco warehouses. J. D. Harper and Sons was also producing sheet metal tobacco dryer components for the James Dryer Company located on Military Pike, which flew them from their private strip to South America.

Not only were materials being rationed, but transportation of freight for civilian endeavors was rationed as well, so manufacturing of durable roofing was being done by J. D. Harper and Sons. The concrete interlocking tile that is found on many fine homes today in and around the Bluegrass was made at the company warehouses. J. D. Harper was not content on just building for the war effort; he also served during this time as an air raid warden for Lexington and Fayette County. 

1920 - 1940: Movin On Up

JD Jr. (Pat) Harper Roofing

J. D. Harper becomes the premier roofing contractor in the area. Sons J. D. Jr, (Pat) and William H. Harper (Bill) enter the business after attending the University of Kentucky. The company became J. D. Harper and Sons. Following the end of Prohibition, area distilleries gear up for production and build warehouses for storage of aging bourbon, requiring thousands of square feet of tar and gravel roofing, known as “built up” roofing, so called because of its alternating moppings of hot, natural tar and plies of tar saturated felts, and having a service life of several decades.  Also during this time, J. D. Harper and Sons was in the business of steep roofing and roofed many area landmarks such as the Keeneland Club House, with slate from quarries in Vermont, New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Also during this time, many area horse farms were being enlarged such as Castleton, Spendthrift, and Gainesway Farms, using Ludowici Spanish and flat interlocking tiles, and J. D. Harper and Sons were the principal suppliers and installers, working with architects to specify the most durable, and architecturally aesthetic product of the day.

1899 - 1920: JD Harper Roofing is Born

Apprenticed to Clif Bitterman, considered the best sheet metal contractor in the area, J. D. worked to complete the Fayette County Court House on Main Street in 1899, noted for its copper cornice work and slate roof. James D. Harper forms J. D. Harper Roofing in 1915. Roofing and sheet metal work associated with roofing was the principal product.  Soon furnaces and sheet metal ducting was also performed this activity and was managed by J. D’s brother, Reuben.