R.C. Mathews Contractor celebrates 70 years of operations

Sunday, October 9, 2011 at 10:05pm

In the “building of buildings business,” it is important to understand everything from cranes to concrete to caissons.  

But a general contracting company does not survive nearly three-quarters of a century by knowing its trade alone.

Take, for example, R.C. Mathews Contractor, a venerable Nashville-based company founded in 1941 and a local institution of sorts. Even recent transplants to the city recognize the company name — while long-timers know its president, the affable Walker Mathews.

“The primary significance of the [70-year] milestone is not in the legacy of landmark buildings but in the celebration of building relationships,” said Mathews, whose brother Bert oversees sister company The Mathews Co.

Founded by the brothers’ grandfather R.C. Mathews Sr. and perhaps best known for its work under the direction of the late R.C. “Bob” Mathews Jr., R.C. Mathews Contractor has forever placed its stamp on Nashville, building or rehabbing iconic structures such as the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, the Hermitage Hotel, the Grand Ole Opry House and the Stahlman Building. Currently, the company is working on two new buildings at Belmont University and the vintage Trolley Barns on Rolling Mill Hill.

Indeed, most Nashvillians have interacted in some manner with one of the more than 3,000 projects the company has touched. 

In the 21st century, R.C. Mathews Contractor faces new challenges that will dictate whether it flourishes for another 70 years.

“Even with the advent of new technology, like lasers and GPS instruments, the main challenge is the trend toward more sustainable design and the dramatic increase in the cost of material,” Walker Mathews said.

To commemorate the milestone, the company collected photos to assemble a timeline. And last week, it held a party at the Frist (we’re sure Eba Hobbs, a 37-year-veteran of the company, had stories to tell).

“I have hand-written notes that my grandfather did for jobs from 1941 to 1966, and then my father’s handwritten notes from 1966 to 1981,” Mathews said fondly. “From that point, we have them all typed. We basically know every job we’ve ever done.”