There’s something inside all of us that seems drawn to the transcendent, to be part of something significant, bigger than ourselves. Some find that in studying their family tree or in participating in time-honored organizations. Others feel whole when they connect with nature or participate in various forms of worship. While we’re not equating lumber buying with a religious experience, we do invite you to look past the surface, past the single board or lumber order or even your current project, at the people and the history behind your lumber supplier. Especially since we all know that history tends to repeat itself, so it’s good to know a little bit about your lumber supplier’s roots. Here at J. Gibson McIlvain, we’re proud to tell you about ours.
Does anything worthwhile begin without a measure of risk? Our company certainly didn’t. The McIlvain lumber dynasty began with Hugh McIlvain, over 200 years ago. As an American Colonist, he took a chance and started a small lumber yard outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The year was 1798. Unlike the established “board yards” in the city, McIlvain’s new enterprise along the Schuylkill River relied on westward expansion. Sure enough, urban sprawl proved the gamble to be worthwhile, and the lumber yard was positioned ideally for growth. While Napoleon was busy conquering Europe, Thomas Jefferson put embargoes on much international trade, forcing many other lumber enterprises to fold. The McIlvain company stood strong, though, thriving amid the tumults of political policy that affected the lumber industry.
For the over a century, McIlvain Lumber continued to expand along with a growing nation. We found our niche in specializing in domestic hardwoods, primarily working with cabinetmakers and those in various industries (railroad, automotive, shipping, and others). A major benchmark in the company’s progress came in 1960, when we established our warehouse in White Marsh, Maryland. Still our headquarters in 2015, the location proved ideal for serving those in Maryland, DC, and Virginia. With its strategic location near the port of Baltimore, we were poised to sail into the exciting world of lumber imports. Starting in 1970, we embarked on that journey, forging time-tested relationships with lumber mills on multiple continents.
As an Importer of Record, J. Gibson McIlvain Lumber continues to expand our inventory of exotic hardwoods, while continuing to supply domestic hardwoods and provide expert millwork. We’ve also more recently ventured into the hardwood plywood market and begun supplying NuCedar PVC products. Still led by members of the McIlvain family, the company is led by J. Gibson McIlvain III as the president. A member of the seventh generation of McIlvains involved in the McIlvain lumber dynasty, Caroline McIlvain is our current international purchaser.
While the day-to-day operations have changed and expanded significantly, we’re still committed to the same kind of quality on which we were founded centuries ago.