Regenhardt Construction Company History

Edward Regenhardt was a building contractor in the Cape Girardeau, Missouri area. He followed the same career as his father, William, who emigrated from Germany to Cape Girardeau via New Orleans in 1849.  His occupation was listed as bricklayer on the
ship passenger list. William, a stone mason and bricklayer, constructed many masonry buildings, his most notable the Hanover Lutheran Church (1885-1887), still standing, now on the National Register of Historic Places.
Edward began a business career in early 1892. He formed a partnership with Charles Bode under the firm mane Regenhardt and Bode, Contractors for Brickwork. Their office was on the second floor over the Burgess Store on Main Street. From 1892 he was engaged as a contractor and builder, with headquarters at Cape Girardeau. Edward’s company constructed many buildings throughout the area, including Academic Hall on the campus of Southeast Missouri State University, completed in 1906 and the new combined police station and fire department building at the northeast corner of Independence and Frederick Streets in 1908, which now houses the River Heritage Museum. His other work included construction of granitoid pavement walks and curbs for the First National Bank, the Sturdivant Bank, Dr. S.S. Harris' house at 313 Themis Street, and two classroom buildings on the Normal School grounds (1897). He built the stone railroad depot in Kennett, MO (1897), the school house in Bonne Terre, MO (1898),
the Holladay and Klotz Mercantile 2 story building in Greenville, MO (1895). He also contracted to build numerous brick residences in Cape, Jackson, and Sikeston.
Politics and his friendship with President William Howard Taft (27
th president of the United States 1909 – 1913) played a major role in Regenhardt becoming the U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Missouri in 1910. He was sworn into office on June 21, 1910 and was based in St. Louis.
When his term ended in June 1914, he returned to Cape Girardeau and continued his construction business.
In 1923, Edward Regenhardt and his sons, William and Ted incorporated as the Regenhardt Construction Company. They brought in the Harrison brothers, Charles (C.L.), Robert (R.D.), and Arthur (A.W.), to handle the business side while the Regenhardts managed the construction operations. This partnership led to the establishment of a series of construction and materials companies that would eventually become the Delta Companies Inc.
This first partnership constructed roads and other concrete construction projects throughout Missouri, Illinois, and Kentucky.
Their first paving project was for the city streets in Poplar Bluff, Missouri in 1923. They mixed the concrete in a central location and hauled it to the job site. Other paving contracts in the 1920s included city streets in Charleston, Chaffee, DeSoto, and Kennett. In 1924, the company was awarded its first state highway project. It consisted of 14 miles of concrete pavement on Highway 9 (now Highway 72) from Millersville heading west to Patton.
Notable work in the 1920s included projects in Cabery, Illinois and Advance, Missouri in 1925; 14 miles in Pike County, Illinois in 1926; 20 miles in Kankakee County, Illinois in 1927; Route 70 in Lee and LaSalle Counties, Illinois in 1928; and Route 66 through St. James Missouri in 1929.
Edward F Regenhardt, President of the company, passed away May 12, 1926 at the age of 59.  The company reorganized, and C. L. Harrison was elected President.  William M. Regenhardt was elected Vice President and General Manager.  Ted Regenhardt was elected Second Vice President.
In 1930, the Regenhardt’s younger brother, Edward Taft Regenhardt, “Tiny” entered the partnership after graduation from the Missouri School of Mines with a Civil Engineering degree. Tiny was a Superintendent for the construction of the Highway 60 bridge over the Black River in Poplar Bluff, Missouri in 1930 .  This bridge was replaced in 2022.
In 1931, Ted Regenhardt and Charles Kassel invented a motorized sub grading machine and received a U.S. Patent in 1933.
Notable work in the 1930s included: 17 miles on Routes 63 and 66 in Phelps and Maries Counties, Missouri in 1930; Route 142 in DeSoto, Missouri in 1931; Routes 70 and 146 in Compton, Illinois in 1932; Route 148 in Jefferson County, Illinois and Highway 37 between Mt. Vernon and Marion, Illinois in 1933; Routes 6 and 4A in Williamson County, Illinois in 1934; Route 140 in Hardin County, Illinois in 1935; bridge work in Hardin County, Crawford County, Perry County, and Washington County in Illinois in 1936; bridge work in Massac and Pulaski Counties in Illinois in 1937; 4-lane highway in Fayette County, Kentucky in 1938; sheet piling and concrete placement for the U.S. Government Flood Control Project in 1939.
In 1936 Ted, and then Edward T. in 1937, left the company due to disagreements with their older brother, leaving William Sr. as the partner with the Harrison brothers.
Bob Harrison eventually bought out his brothers and the partnership then consisted of Harrison and William Regenhardt, Sr. In the late 1940s, these two enterprising men expanded the business to include coal mines, highway construction, and levee building. In 1948, they opened a quarry in Buncombe, Illinois known as Southern Illinois Stone Company (commonly referred to as the SISCO Quarry).
Notable work in the 1940s included: Route 143 in Saline County, Illinois and Route 147 in Williamson County, Illinois in 1940; Routes 4 and 71 near Chester, Illinois in 1941; runway construction at the Vichy Army Airfield near Rolla, Missouri in 1942; Charleston-Commerce, Missouri levee construction in 1943; levee work near Chester, Illinois in 1943; and coal mining near Harrisburg, Illinois in 1946.
Major changes for the company occurred in 1952. Upon his death, William Regenhardt Sr.’s ownership passed to his three sons, William Jr., Thomas, and Joe. Bob Harrison passed his ownership to his nephew, Donald L. Harrison (also known as D.L.). The four formed a partnership that would establish Delta Companies as one of the largest concrete paving companies in the Midwest.
Delta Companies performed work on Interstate and State highways in Missouri and Illinois. In the 1953, Tom Regenhardt, Frankie Merritt, the firm’s Master Mechanic, and Leonard Church, Merritt’s assistant, invented a Formless Concrete Paving machine for concrete paving on State highway projects. This machine was first used on Route 37 in Whittington, Illinois.
The Regenhardt brothers sold their share of the Regenhardt Construction Company to the R.B. Potashnick Company and D.L. Harrison in 1959, thus forming the D.L. Harrison Company. However, the brothers maintained fifty-percent ownership in the Southern Illinois Stone Company quarry.
After the demise of the Regenhardt Construction Company
The D.L. Harrison Company continued to expand into the concrete paving business. In August 1959
while performing work on I-57 in Scott County, Missouri, the company became only the ninth highway-paving contractor in the nation to pave over one linear mile in a single day.
As the Interstate program wound down in the area, the company began converting from a predominately concrete construction company into the vertically integrated company it is today.
In 1962, Don Harrison started a separate company based in Cape Girardeau called Delta Asphalt Inc., with the establishment of the Cape Girardeau Hot Mix Asphalt Plant. This company was joined in 1964 by Girardeau Contractors, Inc., an asphalt paving company operating in Missouri. Around this same time, the Regenhardt brothers began a similar company in southern Illinois named Southern Illinois Asphalt Company (commonly referred to as SIAC). Also in 1964, Don Harrison and the Regenhardt brothers purchased land in southern Cape Girardeau County and founded Southeast Missouri Stone Company, offering aggregates to the local market.
The Illinois company converted from concrete paving to asphalt road construction in the mid-1960s following major work on interstates 55 and 57 in Illinois and Missouri. Several asphalt plants were also constructed.
Due to economic changes slowing the demand for concrete construction, the D.L. Harrison Company began construction operations in Central America in 1966. The company constructed roadway projects in the republics of Guatemala and El Salvador, including five sections of the Pan American Highway, under the management of Joe Regenhardt.
In the 1970s, the Harrison/Regenhardt group started Southern Illinois Concrete Products to produce concrete products such as round and elliptical pipe and box culverts. This business was sold in 2000.
In 1972, Delta expanded into Arkansas with asphalt plants and construction operations.
The Delta Companies owned and operated a liquid asphalt terminal on the Mississippi River in New Madrid, Missouri from 1976 to 1983.
Apex Paving Company was formed in 1978 in Missouri as a non-union construction company and an alternative to Girardeau Contractors, which was union, as were all other Missouri and Illinois operations through the early 2000s.
As the work in Central America began to have political problems affecting the company’s operations there, the D.L. Harrison Company sold its interests to a local construction company in 1980. Joe Regenhardt returned to manage operations in southern Illinois.
The early 1980s saw a severe slowdown of the economy, so Delta expanded into the southern Louisiana. The market was booming there due to the higher prices of oil, making it economical to drill for oil in the state. Again, it was asphalt plants and road construction work. In 1982, Delta Asphalt performed work in the famed French Quarter in New Orleans. The streets required resurfacing before the 1984 Louisiana World Exposition (also known as the World’s Fair) and Delta completed most of this work. The Louisiana businesses were sold in 1995.
In 1985, Joe Regenhardt, at the request of D.L. Harrison, became President of the Delta Asphalt Group and moved to Cape Girardeau.
In 1987, Delta Concrete, Inc. was formed in Cape Girardeau for the production and sale of ready-mix concrete and expanded to cover all southeast Missouri.
The Delta group of companies was purchased in December 1992 by Colas Inc., based in Morristown, New Jersey. The owners, Don Harrison and the Regenhardts, were reaching an age where retirement beckoned, and there were no plans to transfer the business to the next generation.
However, their involvement with the company did not end immediately. Joe Regenhardt was named President and CEO of the new group, which included all operations in Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana, the companies then became known as the Delta Companies. Joe continued in this position until his retirement in December of 1999., while Bill and Tom Regenhardt were presidents of the various Illinois companies under the parent company Southern Illinois Stone Company.
The company continued to expand its involvement in all phases of highway construction, specializing in hot mix asphalt and aggregates. This began with the 1997 purchase of Baughn Construction in Arkansas, which added asphalt plants in Tuckerman and Black Rock, and continued with the 1999 purchase of Clinton Materials Companies. This acquisition added six ready-mix concrete plants in southeast Missouri, a limestone quarry in Williamsville, Missouri, and a sand and gravel operation in Dexter, Missouri.
Delta played a key role in a joint venture supplying ready-mix concrete for the Bill Emerson Memorial Bridge project. The joint venture was involved in the largest continuous concrete pour in the history of the Missouri Department of Transportation supplying nearly 5,000 cubic yards. The bridge required approximately 60,000 yards of concrete for the structure and about 5,000 cubic yards of silica fume surface mix over the pre-stressed deck panels. The project started in 1996 and opened to traffic in 2003.
Traylor Bros., Inc., based in Evansville, Indiana, was the prime contractor. The project involved the construction of a cable-stayed bridge over the Mississippi River connecting Cape Girardeau, Missouri, and East Cape Girardeau, Illinois.
The Delta Companies Inc. was formed as the holding company for all the Delta operations in 1993. Donald Harrison served as chairman of the board from 1993 to his retirement in 1995. William and Tom Regenhardt retired at the time of the sale to Colas. Joe Regenhardt became President of Delta Companies in January 1993, added the title of Chairman of the Board in January 1996, and retired as President in December 1999, then as Chairman in December 2000.  
Newspaper Articles
Excerpt of an article in the Southeast Missourian, Sep 25, 1942, page 4:
Construction of steps from Spanish Street up to Common Pleas Courthouse
The steps were built back about 1896.  The records show that the late Edward  F. Regenhardt had the contract for building the steps and the walks through Court House Park.  It was the first concrete job of consequence in Cape Girardeau and the cost was met by the County Court.
Mr. Regenhardt often told how inexpensively the job was done and how the material was secured.  It was his ideas to provide the best material possible and, as usual, an argument arose over using home stone.  Local men wanted to haul creek gravel but Regenhardt insisted upon using granite material, and he had his way.  The granite came from St. Louis, where it had been ground into fine bits.  There were two kinds of cement in those days, a native product known as Louisville cement and Portland cement, which came from England. Regenhardt wanted to use Portland cement and again had his way.  A dealer had the cement shipped by boat from New Orleans and it was said to have cost $1.20 a barrel f.o.b. Cape Girardeau.
A barrel of local cement made here in Cape Girardeau now retails at $3.00.  Regenhardt had been a bricklayer in St. Louis but had returned home to engage in contracting.  This was his first job, so he sent to St. Louis for experienced concrete finishers.
The job was carried out in due time and a recent inspection shows not a crack in the entire work.  The curbing in some places has broken way but otherwise the walks are as good as when they were laid.

(Marion Daily Republican article by Paul Frick, April 15, 1954):
Paving Machine Invented in Marion, Illinois
Paving Machine Invented in Marion Will Revolutionize the Industry
W.F. “Frankie” Merritt, 428 S. Future Street, Marion, has invented a machine which may revolutionize paving operations in the United States. Merritt, who is chief mechanic for the Regenhardt Construction Company of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, has developed a paving machine which requires no forms, but deposits the fresh concrete directly on the new road, saving approximately ten per cent in the cost of operation, and reducing the number of workers. With a traveling sub-grade machine, the results are practically the same as paving with forms.
Machine Made in Marion
Merritt drew plans for the machine on Sunday, March 1, 1953, and within six weeks and two days the new machine was ready to operate. The machine was made in the building owned by Raleigh Crain, just off West White Street and transported to the new road to be constructed south of Whittington.
Previous machines had not proved practical for this type of work and up to the Merritt model; all had laid a twelve foot slab of concrete. This new machine lays a complete 24 foot slab.
Will Be Used This Year
The Regenhardt Construction Company was the successful bidder on two slabs of road in Southern Illinois recently and will use the newly developed machine in the construction of these highways this summer. One of these jobs will be Highway 51, north of Carbondale to DeSoto. This strip of road will be approximately ten miles long and will cost over $800,000.

The second strip of road will be in Edwards County, from Albion on Route 130 to Crossville, at the intersection of State Highway 1. This will be about nine miles long and will cost over $700,000.
Moved to Marion in 1950
W.F. Merritt moved to Marion in 1950 from Harrisburg. He has been an employee of the Regenhardt Construction Company since 1924. Merritt was born in Oran, Missouri August 17, 1906 and graduated from the Chaffee, Missouri High School.
In 1937, he married Maude Gidney at Wentzville, Mo. They have seven children, Mary Virginia, 16; Frances Ann, 15; Shirley Jean 14; Charles Raymond, 10; Carol Sue, 8; William Frank, Jr., 5; and Patricia Lynn, 4 months.
As chief mechanic, he works for the construction company throughout Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Tennessee and Arkansas.
Motion pictures were made of the machine when it first went into operation on the Illinois Highway project in Franklin County. When it first went into operation it poured and completed 80 feet of 24 foot concrete slab during the first hour. The machine has a speed graduated from eight inches in a minute to 248 inches per minute. It has a total of 45 speeds forward and 45 speeds backward.

Construction of new machines will run approximately $15,000 each. The original model cost more than this amount, but many of the parts were custom made.
Recently Tried in Illinois
Encouraged by State Division of Highways at Springfield, the Regenhardt Construction Company recently laid a 24 foot Portland Concrete and Cement base course, nine inches uniform thickness on a 4.78 mile bituminous surfacing project on Illinois Route 37, two miles south of Whittington in Franklin County.
The machine was first used on August 3rd of last year. It is self-propelled and is supported on shoulders of the road with a pair of caterpillar tracks. Concrete is retained by two sliding or slip forms having the same vertical dimensions as the thickness of the slab being poured.
In operation, the metal plate and tie-bars are set ahead of the paver. The sub-grade of six inches of granular sub-base is carefully checked for elevation and wet down ahead of the machine.
Developed From Parts on Hand
The finishing machine was developed from parts on hand in the Regenhardt Construction Company’s shops, and the complete construction cost approximately $17,500. Frankie Merritt, genius behind the new machine, has had over 30 years’ experience in construction and road building. All details were worked out from rough sketches. The elevation and thickness of the slab was the big problem, but the machine with its numerous gears worked perfectly the first time it was tried.
Target Guides Equipment
The caterpillar tracks are outside the traveling form. The gasoline powered unit is near the center and a generator unit operates an electric vibratory motor. The 34-E dual drum paver and trailing water tank moves along with the machine.
Forward direction of the paver is controlled by an operator seated at the left of the 120 horsepower gasoline engine located in the center of the machine. A pointer hinged at the bottom of a target which is fastened to the forward end of the traveling forms guide the machine. The target is rigidly fastened on the front end of the left traveling form. Forked wire traveling along cord stretched between stakes at 25 foot centers, indicate the direction of the paver on target. Forked wire is also hinged for vertical movement to eliminate binding when passing over stakes.

The new machine is the only known one of its kind in the United States capable of paving a full 24 foot width. Besides highway engineers, several equipment manufacturers have evidenced considerable interest in the machine and have sent representatives to look it over. The Regenhardt Construction Company has applied for a patent for the machine.

Praise Cooperation of State
D.L. Harrison, president of the Regenhardt Construction Company, in discussing Merritt’s invention states, “We believe our paving machine has successfully demonstrated that the idea of paving without forms is no longer in the dream stage. The far-sighted cooperation of the Illinois Highway Department made feasible our experiment and development. We are convinced that this present machine is sufficient for the placing of base course concrete. Ultimately the idea may make the costly forms a thing of the past.”