Joseph M. Galvin Sr., who took his family's Horstmeier Lumber Co. from the era of draft horses and steam engines to a modern business with $9.5 million in gross sales, died Tuesday of heart failure. He was 92.
Mr. Galvin was "both the coach and the quarterback" at the family-run business from 1957 until 1997, when he took a less active role, said his son, Joseph M. Galvin Jr. "He was extremely devoted to the business. Up until the age of 90, he was present and actively working at least four days a week."
Family members said the company is rich in history. A chronicle of Baltimore says that as early as the War of 1812, a lumber mill stood on the company's original site along the Jones Falls just south of Pratt Street, on the edge of what is now Little Italy. The current company has been in existence since 1877, when Ernest M. Horstmeier took over an existing mill on the property.
In the late 1800s, Mr. Horstmeier hired an accountant, John T. Galvin, and when Mr. Horstmeier died in 1902, his accountant canvassed the Galvin family to raise enough money to buy the business. The lumber company has been in Galvin hands ever since; five family members work there today.
Joseph M. Galvin, one of John T. Galvin's six children, originally intended to be a lawyer, family members said. A graduate of Loyola High School and Loyola College, he worked at the lumberyard by day and studied at the University of Maryland Law School by night during the Great Depression. He was admitted to the bar in Maryland in the late 1930s and practiced law briefly before deciding he preferred the lumber business.
During World War II, his legal background earned him an assignment to the Counter Intelligence Corps. He never discussed the work in detail but told his children that it involved investigating suspected "subversives." Mr. Galvin was on active duty from 1942 to 1947, but remained in Baltimore.
In 1943, he married Ruth Barrick, a fellow parishioner at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament. The couple lived in Homeland throughout their marriage.
Joseph M. Galvin Jr. remembers visiting the lumberyard with his father in the 1950s, when a steam mill powered by lumber shavings turned out the moldings that were the company's specialty, and planks were hauled around the site by draft horses.
"They were huge, and they knew their way around better than the men riding on them," the younger Galvin recalled.
Mr. Galvin modernized the company and eventually donated its antiquated steam engine to the Baltimore Museum of Industry, his son said. In 1984, after the state condemned the company's Fallsway property for an extension of the Jones Falls Expressway that was never built, Mr. Galvin moved the lumberyard to a site at 1600 Ridgely St.
The company specializes in flooring, molding and paneling for homes, and took on several historic restoration projects during Mr. Galvin's years at the helm. He was proudest of its involvement in the 1970s-era restoration of Washington, D.C.'s Ford's Theatre, where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. The company duplicated the theater's Civil War-era floors, his son said.
An avid golfer, Mr. Galvin was a member of the Baltimore Country Club for more than 50 years.
In addition to his wife and his son, a Timonium resident, Mr. Galvin is survived by two daughters, Joanne L. Galvin of Timonium and Mary Ruth Logan of Homeland; and five grandchildren.
A Mass of Christian burial was held yesterday at Cathedral of Mary Our Queen.