Building the Old Pueblo

SHORTLY AFTER WORLD WAR II CONCLUDED, John Sundt decided to close down the New Mexico division. He felt the state was more in need of a good supplier of sand, gravel and ready-mixed concrete. He acquired an industrial site in Albuquerque, leased a gravel pit nearby, and purchased the equipment needed for a concrete batch plant.

Soon Albuquerque Gravel Products, Inc. (AGP) was in operation. Over the ensuing four decades the company, with Gene Sundt at the helm, grew to be the leading supplier of readymixed concrete and construction aggregates in New Mexico.

Sundt also became active in the materials business in Arizona, starting with acquisition of a brick manufacturing company. Since its incorporation in 1908, Tucson Pressed Brick had been the main supplier of bricks for many of the city’s homes and businesses. John Sundt acquired the firm in 1935, and under his leadership it continued to be the city’s leading brick supplier.

Sundt Expands Materials Operations

 

In late 1952 and early 1953, Sundt prospected for and located 20 gravel supply claims on state land east of Tucson. Shortly thereafter, a portable crushing and screening operation was established at that location, which was the forerunner for a permanent installation that became M.M. Sundt Materials Plant No. 1. A short time later the company installed an asphalt mixing and batch plant on another Tucson

property, which gave Sundt a strong presence in the asphalt paving business as well. In 1964, Sundt’s materials business expanded again through acquisition of the Tucson Rock and Sand Company. All of these operations were sold in 1971 so the company could concentrate on its growing construction operations.

M.M. Sundt Construction Co. built a wide variety of buildings in Tucson (nicknamed the Old Pueblo) during the two decades after World War II, including major expansions of three hospitals in the Tucson area—the Tucson Medical Center, St. Mary’s and St. Joseph’s Hospitals. The company also put its name on many of the new buildings erected on the University of Arizona campus, including Aeronautics, Liberal Arts, the Student Union, Fine Arts, Biological Sciences, Geology, Anthropology, Science Library, Agricultural Sciences, Civil Engineering, and eight dormitories.

Several Tucson public schools were built by Sundt during
this time, including Rose, Rincon High and the remodeling of the
Drachman School.

 

In 1948, Robert S. Sundt, Thoralf’s oldest son, went to work for the company as a timekeeper and laborer during his summer break from the University of Arizona. Upon graduation two years later he joined the company full time. Over the ensuing years he would rise quickly through the ranks to become one of the key executives shaping the company’s future as a construction industry leader. His younger brother, Wilson, came on board in 1957 as a carpenter apprentice and estimator. Also a graduate of the University of Arizona, Wilson undertook post-graduate studies in civil engineering as further preparation for his career in construction. He also would rise through the ranks, eventually holding the position of chief
executive officer.

Custom Home Headache

 

One of Bob Sundt’s early projects became a gigantic headache. The company was hired to build a beautiful home for the William Joffroy family in Nogales. Joffroy was a tomato broker, and his home cost more than $100,000, a considerable amount for a home in the 1950s. It was built on the side of a hill, but the architect, William Wilde, and Bob Sundt, who was serving as the construction superintendent, didn’t know that at one time the lot had been a dumping area. Bob Sundt was present when the structural engineer thumped his heel into the earth a few times and told them to go ahead and pour the concrete.



That was a big mistake. When the summer monsoons arrived, the rain compacted the soil in the holes dug for footings, and the foundation wall separated from the wall above. Attorneys entered the resulting battle over who was to blame and who must pay. Sundt did all the corrective work required even though nobody involved thought Sundt was to blame.

“The reason we got named in all the litigation was the fact that they didn’t think anyone else had any money to correct the problem,” Bob Sundt said. “The one thing I could never quite understand was that Bill Joffroy kept talking about building a swimming pool in his backyard during the course of all this corrective work.”