Two Histories Converge

As one of Southern California's earliest general contractors, Griffith Company is honored to share a part in the incredible story of California's phenomenal growth.
Our Company's past is entwined with the past of our remarkable state. From the Central Valley to the Los Angeles Basin to Orange County and San Diego, Griffith Company has left a lasting mark across Southern California. When the first city streets were graded, when the mighty Colorado River was tapped, when the first paved runways beckoned commercial jets — we were there. In fact, we've been here for more than a century. And we plan to be here for centuries to come.

We invite you to take a look at the rich history of Griffith Company – a history that provides a solid foundation for all we do today, and all we intend to accomplish well into the future. Click here to view our Centennial Video.



1906

George P. Griffith joins the Company, stepping in as a Director
before being elected as the Vice President.

1920

George P. Griffith is unanimously elected President, and his son
George Griffith Jr. is elected as Treasurer and Director.

1950s

Stephen Griffith served Griffith Company for 43 years and as
president for 28 years.

1960s

former President Ben Griffith was known to say, "There will always
be a Griffith Company." One of four Griffiths to serve as the
Company's President, Ben Griffith shared his family's pursuit
of integrity, quality and fairness.

1970s

George P. Griffith was the grandson of the original George P.
He dedicated 38 years of his life to Griffith Company- spending
11 years as the last Griffith President.
The Road More Traveled

Imagine for a moment Southern California without rush-hour traffic. It's difficult to do. Roads and freeways are an integral part of daily life here. But consider this: our intricate system of roads dates back to the 1700s, when the Spanish set out from Mexico to explore 500 miles of trackless wilderness to the north. These early trails were used by pioneers, fur traders, gold-rushers, mail carriers, cavalry, troops and stagecoaches — all looking for the easiest way to navigate the rugged land. New trails gradually joined the old ones, creating make-shift roads easily destroyed by storms and blown away by desert winds.


The years between 1915 and 1960 saw the most highway, freeway and road expansion than any other period in our region's history. Over the last century, our crews have built, paved, graded and widened more miles of freeway, streets and roads than just about any contractor in the West.


1900-1940 - Early Road Work

Up until the 1930s, Griffith Company was engaged primarily in paving the city streets of greater Los Angeles and San Diego, with occasional forays into Orange, Riverside and Ventura Counties. We sent road crews down to Wilmington, Long Beach and San Diego as early as 1904. As part of a 1923 Civic Improvement Program, we paved 5th Street in San Pedro. In 1934, we were awarded a contract to regrade and repave a section of Wilshire Boulevard. That same year, the Company also worked on a stretch of Pacific Coast Highway from Oceanside to Encinitas. And in 1940, we helped transform a former cow path overgrown with sage brush into Sepulveda Boulevard.

1949 - Santa Ana Freeway

The creation of the Santa Ana Freeway served as an extension of the Hollywood Freeway, providing a vital six-lane freeway allowing drivers to travel northwesterly or southeasterly. Griffith Company was awarded the task of grading and paving a new section of the freeway totalling nearly four miles. We finished two weeks ahead of schedule.

1949 - Highway 99 in Bakersfield

For years, the Ridge Route — a 44-mile perilous section of historic Highway 99 — had been the only direct highway connection between Los Angeles and the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. Heavy truck traffic competed with touring motorists for the route's minimal space, resulting in increasing accidents. In a massive reconstruction plan initiated by the Division of Highways, 23 miles of Highway 99 were reconstructed and modernized into a four-lane divided freeway. Our crews increased the pavement width to modern standards and built a central division strip to separate north- and south-bound traffic. Our role in the project helped transform a dangerous, winding route into a safe, modern state highway.

1950-51 - Hollywood Freeway

One of Los Angeles's most famous landmarks, the Hollywood Freeway has origins dating back to the mid 1920s. The project turned out to be a tremendous undertaking spanning the terms of three California governors. To complete these 10 miles, crews had to clear the way a densely developed portion of the city. Crews also had to construct a four-level structure and interchange roadway system. In addition, the Freeway intersected some of the heaviest and most expensive utility installations, requiring crews to reconstruct pipelines, power
lines and telephone lines.

1958 - Highway 466

Griffith Company was one of three contractors called upon to help solve one of the worst and most dangerous bottlenecks in Southern California, located on Highway 466. The project asked for the construction of 12 miles of the four-lane highway between Bakersfield and Bear Mountain. Using thousands of pounds of explosives to cut through ridges, crews removed millions of cubic yards of rock and dirt. In temperatures soaring past 100 degrees, workers operated one of the largest hard-rock drills available at that time. Due to the lack of water in the mountainous area, 12 miles of 8-inch water line and 6 reservoirs and pumping stations were built to bring in water, boosting it 2,000 feet above sea level.

1950s - Early Bridge Work

A structural engineering contractor since its inception, Griffith Company offers a legacy that includes a number of bridges built for public works. The first contractor in Mission Viejo—then little more than a cattle ranch—we built the bridge that opened the area to development. In 1950, we finished construction of a reinforced concrete open spandrel arch bridge, 434 feet long with an arch span of 220 feet. This bridge, at Penasquitos Creek in San Diego, provided a critical link in the newly completed U.S. 395.
Water, Water, Everywhere

Southern California's thirst for water is an ancient one, dating back to earliest settlers and their primitive irrigation and water storage systems — systems that quickly proved inadequate as the region's population continued to expand. Our search for dependable water sources have taken us to great lengths, beyond Southern California's dry basin to mighty rivers far away.

Water has always played a complex and vital role in the development of Southern California. Our industries, farms and cattle, homes and businesses all depend on a plentiful, reliable supply of water. When turning on the faucet, we must remember that Southern California is in essence a desert. Much of the precious water we need comes to us from great distances via intricate water-delivery systems. These systems represent some of construction's greatest engineering accomplishments. And a large part of Griffith Company's most remarkable and fascinating history.



1932-41 - Colorado River Aqueduct

To build the acqueduct and delivery system, an army of 11,000 laborers, mechanics, shovel operators, truck drivers and technicians toiled in the merciless desert sun. The single largest work opportunity of the Great Depression, the aqueduct project employed more than 35,000 people over an eight-year period. Griffith Company built 12.79 miles of the Colorado River Aqueduct — more miles than any other single contractor. We are proud to have played a role in this tremendous and important undertaking.

1938-45 - Shasta Dam

Once finished, Shasta Dam backed up the Sacramento River for 35 miles, turning it into a reservoir to catch the abundant rainfall. At the time of construction, the dam's magnificent spillway created the world's largest artificial waterfall, nearly three times the size of Niagara Falls. Our crews started and completed construction amid environmental, political and economic turmoil, including rumors of impending war. With no labor strikes, and a minimal rate of accident or injury — quite a feat for an undertaking this size — Pacific Constructors built one of the state's, indeed the nation's, greatest engineering marvels. Griffith Company is proud to have played such an important role in this accomplishment.

1940-42 - Friant Dam

The dam was constructed to capture and store water as it headed toward the ocean, then deliver the water to areas that needed it most. Once completed, Friant Dam created Millerton Lake, a reservoir with a capacity of 520,000 acre-feet of water. The retained water was then diverted for irrigation in the San Joaquin Valley via two canals. To furnish the massive amounts of aggregate for the dam and canals, our crews built an automated, electrical rock plant considered very sophisticated for its time. We also constructed a private railroad to convey the aggregate from the plant to the site.
Saluting Our Military Projects

With the start of World War II, nearly all new construction in Southern California was put on hold. Construction labor and materials were instead redirected at war efforts. Griffith Company proudly joined other area contractors in building much needed hangars, bases, landing strips and other structures vital to national security. Griffith Company completed a multitude of military projects — from landing strips in the San Joaquin Valley to seacoast batteries to the largest pilot recruit training facility of its kind. We built rifle ranges, warehouses, parking areas, chapels, barracks, and fire-fighter schools. Each project, no matter how large or small, supported our nation's war efforts and served to protect our way of life.

While only a few of the original buildings are still standing, the impact of SAAAB can still be felt. The base brought in men and women from all over the country, many of whom stayed or returned after the war to build homes and raise families. Today, SAAAB is the location for the Orange County Fairgrounds, where a monument and museum to the SAAAB builders and trainees stand as a testament to enguinity and courage.



1941-43 - Santa Ana Army Airbase

Griffith Company was awarded the challenging contract, which ultimately totaled $8,800,000. In mid-construction, Pearl Harbor came under attack. The U.S. suddenly found itself fighting the war on two fronts, requiring even more trained pilots. Griffith Company learned that its crews would need to accommdate more trainees, and do so quickly. We increased our work force to 709, including 378 carpenters and 222 laborers. Due to the emergency nature of the project, the buildings had to be constructed simultaneously. Using innovative time- and material-saving techniques, at peak production our crews completed seven two-story barracks and six one-story buildings every day.
Take to the Skies

While Griffith Company was busy building roads and bridges down on the ground, we were also helping Southern California reach for the skies. Our crews paved many of Southern California's earliest runways for what are today known as Los Angeles International Airport and John Wayne Airport. When the government desperately needed to train more pilots during World War II, Griffith Company built military runways and hangars across the region. In more recent years, we've helped a number of airports, large and small, recover from earthquakes, extend runways, and resurface aprons. As long as Californians take to the skies, we'll be laying the groundwork.

Griffith Company graded, paved and resurfaced airfields across the San Joaquin Valley. The long list includes Wasco Airport, Meadows Field, Minter Field, Tehachapi Airport, Delano Airport, Bakersfield Airport, California City Airport, Edwards Airforce Base, Mojave Airport, Inyo Kern Airport, and China Lake Airforce Base.


1940s - John Wayne Airport

In 1923, the airport now known as John Wayne Airport was a single private landing strip built on land owned by the Irvine Company. Today, John Wayne Airport is Orange County's only commercial airport, servicing close to 10 million passengers a year. Many of those passengers take off and land on runways and taxiways built by Griffith Company. Griffith Company's numerous contracts with John Wayne Airport date back to 1940, the year we built the original runway. Within the past decade, we have resurfaced the entire main runway, in addition to building large taxiway areas and perimeter roads around the airport.

1958 - Los Angeles Airport

Once little more than a bean field, Los Angeles International Airport is now one of the world's major air transportation hubs. Over the past half-century, Griffith Company has completed a number of contracts with Los Angeles International Airport. In 1958, we completed the airport's first jet strip concrete runway as well as American Airlines' jet maintenance apron. Between 1958 and 1959, we completed two runways. Our LAX projects list also includes all the taxiways on the far side of the airport, United Airlines jet parking, two new concourses, as well as perimeter roads on the backside of LAX.
Property of Griffith Company

Griffith Company's diverse history deserves a chapter dedicated to our efforts in real estate, residential, commercial and industrial buildings. During the early part of the 1900s, the Company bonded a substantial amount of street work in Los Angeles, San Pedro, Long Beach and Bakersfield. When the owners weren't able to repay the bonds, we acquired the properties.

Before long, the Company owned enough property to warrant the creation of its own property division. The Company began expanding its investments to industrial and commercial properties, including several shopping centers in San Diego. During the 1950s, our real estate division — investing Griffith Company's own money — constructed housing tracts in Costa Mesa, Garden Grove, San Clemente, and even in Adams County, Colorado. While Griffith Company no longer has a building or real estate division, we will always take a tremendous amount of pride in the work we've completed in this area.



1929 - Lido Isle and Via Lido Business Park

Griffith Company was the original contractor for Lido Isle, a coastal community in Newport Beach. Our crews laid the groundwork for the area's development, building the sea walls, bridge, infrastructure, piers and roads. This was also the first project in Southern California to be built with underground dry utilities. The early construction we completed on Lido Isle helped transform this barren land into a forerunner of the masterplanned development.