Irmscher built to last

The iconic Embassy Theatre in downtown Fort Wayne is one of many prominent buildings Irmscher Inc. constructed during its more than 122 years in business.

Fort Wayne’s oldest commercial construction company, Irmscher Inc., is no more.

Tom Irmscher, who has run the company founded by his family in 1892, closed down the construction business Aug. 31.

At 70 years old, Irmscher said he was ready to cut back “and none of the kids were interested.” Irmscher also was between big projects, so the timing was right to cease operations.

“I had to turn down very few jobs,” he said.

The company will continue to manage various commercial properties it owns, but the building and acreage at 1030 Osage St. is up for sale, Irmscher said.

Over the 122 years it was in operation, Irmscher was responsible for constructing some of the city’s most prominent buildings. The list includes: the Embassy Theatre; the Fort Wayne Water Treatment Plant; the former Waterfield/Wolf & Dessauer/Lincoln Financial building now known as Citizens Square; North Side, Bishop Luers and Paul Harding high schools; projects at Trine University and the University of Saint Francis; the Mizpah Shrine; the (former) GTE building; and many buildings and expansions at and around St. Joseph, Lutheran and Parkview hospitals.

The relationship with St. Joe began in the late 1920s, when the company built a 10-story addition, and continued all the way into the 1980s, Irmscher said.

In recent years, the company focused on the health care business, but most of its work was in Ohio, Kentucky, Texas and other locations outside northeast Indiana.

“Most of the work we do isn’t even in this area,” Irmscher said. “The margins here are not good.”

The company posted record profits in 2010-2011 but things have slowed down and the competition for projects is intense.

“There are a lot of good contractors here,” Irmscher said.

Fort Wayne still has two other commercial contractors that have been around for more than a century: Weigand Construction, founded in 1906; and Hagerman Construction, founded in 1908.

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