FROM HUMBLE BEGINNINGS…
With 2020 marking the 100th anniversary of the founding of CG Schmidt, we wanted to take the time to reflect on the long journey our company has taken to becoming one of the Midwest’s largest and most respected construction management firms. This is a multi-part series, focusing on each generation of the Schmidt family leadership. We hope you enjoy this look into our past and come back for the rest of the story.
Richard Schmidt (Sr.), grandson of CG Schmidt founder Charles Schmidt, was born in Milwaukee in 1932, growing up not far from the site of our original office and current yard operations. From the young age of nine Richard was already getting involved in the family business, helping his dad by pulling nails out of lumber and learning how to lay brickwork. He continued to work for CG Schmidt throughout his youth and teen years before joining the Coast Guard, where he spent most of his service stationed in Alaska. After leaving the Coast Guard, Richard studied business at Spencerian College in Milwaukee (now part of Concordia College).
After college, Richard Sr. rejoined the family firm, working his way up through the company before being named President in 1978. During his tenure as President, CG Schmidt would complete many of the projects that have become hallmarks in our portfolio, including some of the largest exhibits at the Milwaukee County Zoo, and what would prove to be the company’s most challenging project at the time: the Performing Arts Center at UW Stevens Point. Then in 1997, under Richard Sr., CG Schmidt would begin one of the most iconic and well-known projects in the Midwest: the Quadracci Pavilion addition at the Milwaukee Art Museum, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. The 142,050 SF structure was completed in 2001 and its 217-foot wingspan Brise Soleil quickly became a Milwaukee icon, earning the project the renowned Build America award in 2002, an honor Richard Sr. held dear.
But Richard Schmidt Sr. was known for more than just building iconic structures, he was known for helping to build and support the communities around him. Richard served on the boards of numerous community organization boards, including the Kiwanis Club of Milwaukee, the River Revitalization Foundation, the Platypus Society of the Milwaukee County Zoo, and as President of the AGC of Milwaukee; at the behest of a close friend, he even joined the FBI’s Citizen Academy. In recognition of his service to the community, Richard was awarded with the AGC’s “Skills, Integrity and Responsibility” award in 1991. Under his leadership, CG Schmidt greatly expanded our philanthropic efforts and giving, supporting hundreds of community groups and non-profits — something that continues to this day.
Under Richard Sr.’s leadership, he took the company his grandfather founded from a small general contractor to one that built one of the most photographed buildings in America, with a 2,400% increase in annual revenue – raising 10 children in the process. Although Richard stepped down as President in 1991, he never truly retired. Instead, he simply transitioned to Chairman of the Board of CG Schmidt, where he remained for nearly 20 years, until his passing in 2009. Among his family, friends, business associates and even competitors, Richard Sr. was known for his tireless work ethic and unwavering commitment to his personal values, a legacy that still guides CG Schmidt.