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History of Ben Washington & Sons

History of Ben Washington

Benjamin T. Washington was born in Burdette, Arkansas, June 15, 1924 and attended the public schools of his native home, graduating from Burdette Junior High prior to coming to Detroit, where he established residency 1941.  After working at several jobs in Detroit, Mr. Washington went to work for Ford Motor Company in 1946.  In 1957 he decided he wanted to become a plumber and went to work for Frank Griffin a Master Plumber.  During the same year he went into the sewer cleaning business.  He became a Journeyman Plumber in 1964, and enlarged his business to include excavating.

In March of 1966, Mr. Washington became a Master Plumber.  This called for increasing his firm’s activities to include plumbing.  When he received his heating license in 1970, Ben Washington & Sons offered the following services: Sewer Cleaning, Excavating, Plumbing, Sheet Metal Work and Heating.  In April of 1971 BWS was incorporated and became Ben Washington & Sons, Inc.  As a result of his progressive enterprise, his establishment had been responsible for training 45 apprentices by this time.

Moreover, Mr. Washington rendered outstanding service as a churchman, joining the New Bethel Baptist Church in 1951.  He was a member of the Board of Trustees and Chairman of the Church Broadcast Committee. He later became an ordained minister at the Greater Mt. Carmel Missionary Baptist Church under the leadership of the Rev. Dr. J.D. Montgomery.  In addition to his church activities he was active in the community and fraternal affairs, and was a member of Peter Salem No. 40, Prince Hall Masons, Heart of Detroit Lodge of the I.B.P.O. of Elks of the World, N.A.A.C.P., S.C.L.C., Operation Push, and the Greater Detroit Chamber of Commerce.  On September 30, 1972 Mr. Washington was honored at a banquet for his outstanding work as a businessman and a church layman, where he received a Resolution of Tribute from the State of Michigan Senate.

Benjamin T. Washington passed on September 27, 1999.  He remained active in the company right up until the end.  Over the years his wife Lena ran the office and attended to all basic day to day needs, including the accounting, bookkeeping, payroll, etc.  To this day Mrs. Washington is still actively involved in the company on a semi-retired basis.  Brought up and raised only blocks from the shop, Mr. Washington’s three sons Benjamin Jr., Isaac and Everett worked by their father’s side learning the trade; all three eventually becoming Journeyman.  His daughter Barbara assisted in the office for a period of time as a secretary.  Isaac went on to obtain his Bachelors in Business Administration from Eastern Michigan University in 1976, his Mechanical Contractor License in the late 1980’s and was issued his Master Plumber License by the State Plumbing Board in 2001 after passing his examination; thus following in the footsteps of his beloved father, the late Reverend Benjamin T. Washington.

Ben Washington & Sons Plumbing & Heating, Inc. maintains its rich family history with its third generation.  Isaac is the company President, while his daughter Lakiah assists the front office staff on a part-time basis; currently in pursuit of her master’s degree.  Ben Jr. has since passed, however his legacy lives on through his son Benjamin III who is a Journeyman, and his daughter Iris who has worked at the office in the past.  Barbara’s daughter Rashida also interns at the office while home from school.  Everett’s son Christopher is still a little too young only being in grade school, however there is still hope for yet another Washington.

Today BWS continues to maintain high quality standards by utilizing union plumbers and pipe fitters from Local 98 and Local 636 in the Metro Detroit Area.  

 


Some recent or noteworthy projects Ben Washington & Sons has been involved with:

  • Multitude of Detroit Public Schools from new buildings to renovations, additions, etc.
  • Chene Park Amphitheatre – Detroit, MI
  • Patton Park Recreational Center – Detroit, MI
  • Cobo Hall – Detroit, MI
  • Charles Wright Museum of African American History – Detroit, MI
  • Detroit Historical Museum – Detroit, MI
  • Heilman Recreation Center – Detroit, MI
  • Bing Steel Slitter Facility – Detroit, MI
  • AAA Administrative Claim Center – Southfield, MI
  • Tabernacle Missionary Baptist Church – Detroit, MI
  • St. Anne’s Cooperative Housing Project – Detroit, MI
  • Comerica Bank – Rochester, MI
  • Children’s Hospital – Detroit, MI
  • Knudsen Elementary School – Waterford, MI
  • DMC Sinai Grace Hospital Professional Office Building – Detroit, MI
  • Detroit Department of Transportation Shoemaker Terminal – Detroit, MI

Article by Ed Quinn (Associate member of Detroit ASHRAE chapter, Project Engineer for BWS)

Ben Washington’s first truck – picture taken November 6, 1958

History of Dale Prentice Company

Dale Prentice Company

Looking Back: Eighty Years of the Dale L. Prentice Company

The year 2006 marked the 80th anniversary of the Dale Prentice Company. As a third generation, family owned business, the company has enjoyed strong relationships with employees, customers and the manufacturers we work for. Here is a brief look back at our history.

The year 1926 sparked the entrepreneurial spirit in the career of Dale L. Prentice. After a few years working as a salesman for the H.O. Trerice Company, a local manufacturer of thermometers and temperature control valves, Mr. Prentice decided that with his mechanical aptitude and gregarious nature he could be successful on his own as a manufacturers' representative. Several years of struggle with little-known product lines followed. The earliest known product affiliation was as an independent sales rep for the R.J. Eiche Co., a representative of several piping specialty products. Eiche was located in New York City, but had responsibility for much of the United States east of the Mississippi.

In 1936, the Chiksan Company of California engaged Mr. Prentice to sell their line of ball bearing swivel joints. Applications for these fittings were on many types of industrial machinery and chemical loading systems for trucks and railroad tank cars. Thousands of the swivel joints were utilized on hydraulic lines of military tanks built at the Detroit Tank Arsenal during World War II. The company was located in the Book Building in downtown Detroit from 1940 through 1951, when Dale moved his office to a small building on James Couzens Highway in northwest Detroit with two salesmen and a secretary.

In 1945 Mr. Prentice was appointed as the representative for Spence Engineering, a manufacturer of steam pressure reducing valves. His work with Albert Kahn Associates, the leading designer of large auto plants built during that period, led to the establishment of Spence as the standard in most auto plants, including the Ford Rouge complex. He built a strong personal relationship with Henry Angelery, sales manager for Spence. When Mr. Angelery went on to develop a revolutionary new steam fired water heater, Dale Prentice became the first representative for the new company AERCO. He sold the first heater to the Chrysler Corporation. AERCO's business has since evolved to include high efficiency gas fired boilers and is a major product line for Prentice Company today.

The relationship with Chiksan Company led a Texan named C.K. Stillwagon in 1953 to ask Prentice to sell to the industrial market a funny looking rubber seated butterfly valve which Stillwagon had developed for the oil industry. The idea met with much skepticism at first, but eventually Stillwagon's Keystone Valve proved very effective and changed the valve industry. Keystone expanded into other types of valves and valve actuators, and grew to become the industry leader. Today it is the premium brand manufactured by Tyco Valves and Controls, the world's largest valve supplier, and represents one of the longest relationships in the Prentice Company history. 
Unfortunately, Dale Prentice died in 1954, well before industrial butterfly valves became a major business. His wife, Elsie H. Prentice, and son, Dale Jr., with one salesman and a secretary joined together to continue the representative business. 
Dale Jr., a mechanical engineer and a naval engineering officer, began in 1956 to expand the business by hiring more engineers to strengthen the technical competence of the sales organization. In 1960 Prentice Company was appointed to represent Anderson-Greenwood & Co., a manufacturer of specialty safety relief valves, and in 1965 pioneered electrical pipe heat tracing with a company that evolved into Chemelex, now the world leader in the heat tracing business. 
The growth in demand for Prentice's products led the company to begin distribution from local stock, first from a larger building on James Couzens Highway in Detroit in 1962, and then to expand again in 1972 to its current headquarters building in Oak Park, with a complete valve actuation facility.

In 1981, Larry Prentice joined the company, representing the third generation contributing to the company's growth. Paul Prentice worked as an actuator design engineer for Keystone Valve in Glasgow, Scotland before coming to the company in 1983. In 1994, the company hired Michael Prentice who brought several years of experience in the banking industry. Under Larry's initiative in 1996, the company began a period of aggressive growth and acquired the D.E. Riley Company and Riley Valve Services of Wisconsin. The strength of long-term relationships led to more acquisitions including Brock-Easley in Colorado, Valve Repair Consultants in Wyoming, and recently Engineered Resources of Farmington Hills.

Today the company has grown to over seventy employees and capabilities including manufacturing, assembly and repair facilities to support the needs of our customers. Dale Prentice Company's long-term representation of its key principals has contributed greatly to its success and growth. The company's combined relationships with AERCO, Anderson-Greenwood, Keystone, KTM, Raychem and United Electric Controls totals over two hundred and thirty years! This history and commitment continue to spark the entrepreneurial spirit that motivated the founder, Dale L. Prentice. Thanks for looking back with us.

Authored by: Dale Prentice