BGT deTours: Gray Construction - Lexington Luminary

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Wednesday, March 6, 2019

BGT deTours: Gray Construction

Wolf Wile Department Store, 1951
On March 6, 2019 The Bluegrass Trust for Historic Preservation ventured to Gray Construction for their monthly deTour. The majority of the company works out of the old Wolf Wile Department Store building on East Main Street, with the rest scattered between the adjacent building and another across the street off Deweese. Gray Construction focuses mainly on design build projects for manufacturing facilities, but quite a bit of their work is also focused on food and beverage, architecture, and automotive facilities. Among their most notable and high-profile projects are a Skittles factory and a Mars Chocolate factory.

The main building was once utilized as teaching tool for the company's Japanese customers, back when Toyota was their biggest account. To pay tribute to that relationship, a two-story Shōji screen was built; this wooden structure demonstrates the spiritual relevance of building something 'wrong on purpose,' and features one completely irrelevant wooden peg jutting out. It also frames a large, traditional-looking bell, rumored to be from a schoolhouse in Glasgow where the company was started; every time Gray wins a project, a bell-ringing ceremony takes place. Satellite locations in Versailles, Birmingham, Charlotte, and (somewhere in) California all have bells and honor this tradition. Gray Construction currently employs roughly 1000 people across the United States and Canada, with 300 in Main Street location alone, and a plan to hire up to 130 more in 2019.

Throughout the building the original floors, elevators, clock above elevators, marble around elevators, stairs, and stains from makeup stands on the first floor remain. The first floor is dedicated to design, architecture, and 3D modeling, while the second floor focuses primarily on project management. Lois Gray's love of abstract art and vivid colors are evident everywhere the eye can see, and the recent expansion into the adjacent building maintains the vibrant primary color schemes. Another personal touch that's hard to miss is the replica of James Norris Gray’s 1948 Ford, prominently displayed in the lobby.


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