John W. Cowper House - Table of Contents

Biography of John Whitfield Cowper

John Whitfield Cowper, president of the John W. Cowper Company, engineers and contractors, is executive head of one of the big engineering concerns of Buffalo, and has made for himself a notable record in the engineering field.

Mr. Cowper was born in Suffolk, Virginia, April 27, 1871, son of Henry D. and Evelyn (Whitfield) Cowper. His father died in 1873, and his mother in 1884.

He received his education in the public schools of his native city, and then, in February, 1888, entered the engineering and construction field as a rodman in the engineering corps of the city of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Eight months later, in October 1888, he became identified with the engineering corps of the Queen & Crescent Railroad Company, and this connection he maintained until May, 1893, serving as chairman, rodman, draftsman, and finally, as assistant engineer, in which latter capacity he took charge of parties on location, surveys, and relocation, and also had charge of parties supervising the construction of new work such as buildings, additions to tracks, etc. His next work completed during the months of May, June, and July, 1893, was the supervision of a party making surveys for the subdivision of approximately five hundred acres of land outside of Cincinnati, and the following month, he began the work of inspecting the masonry of the reconstructed bridge near Columbus, on the Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago & St. Louis railroad.

From April, 1901, to May, 1909, he was associated with James Stewart & Company, first as superintendent, and later as manager of all work for that company in England, and also as branch manager in the United States. During this time he was superintendent of construction on the plant for the British Westinghouse Company at Manchester, England, for the electrification of the Morsey railway at Liverpool, included power house and track work, and for three power houses, including one for the metropolitan railroad at London. During this time he also had charge of the construction of the Midland railway station at Manchester, England, and of the addition to the Savoy Hotel at London, the Allis-Chalmers Company's plant at Milwaukee, Armstrong Cork Company's plant at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and many other large construction projects. In May, 1909, he was made vice-president of the Worden-Allen Company of Milwaukee, and of the Lackawanna Bridge Company of Buffalo, and in this connection was in charge of all general construction work, including many complete industrial plants as well as steel construction for buildings and bridges.

On December 28, 1907, Cowper married Josephine Osborne of Adams, Massachusetts ... and they are the parents of one child, John Whitfield, Jr., who is twelve years of age and is attending Nichols School.

In May, 1909, he was made vice president of the Worden-Allen Company of Milwaukee, and of the Lackawanna Bridge Company of Buffalo, and in this connection was in charge of all general construction work, including many complete industrial plants as well as steel construction for buildings and bridges.

This association he maintained until April, 1915, when the John W. Cowper Company was organized. With $500,000 capital he formed The John W. Cowper Company, Inc. He was made president of the concern and under his skillful direction this company has become one of the big engineering and contracting organizations of Buffalo. Under Mr. Cowper's direction many large and important buildings have been constructed, including many steel frame and reinforced concrete structures for industrial purposes.

Among these may be named

  • Buffalo plant of the National Aniline & Chemical Company, costing about $5,000,000;
  • University of Buffalo's Foster Hall
  • Buffalo Athletic Club.
  • National Aniline and Chemical Works manufacturing facilities
  • Marine Trust Bank in 1928
  • Rand Building on Lafayette Square
  • Curtiss-Wright Corp. airplane factory in Cheektowaga


The general offices are in Buffalo, with branch offices in Pittsburgh, and New York City.


The Buffalo News, March 7, 1931


Reprint
Buffalo: Lake City in Niagara Land
By Richard C. Brown and Bob Watson.
USA: Windsor Publications, 1981, p. 276-78





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