The entrepreneurial seed certainly was planted long before J. Bres Eustis completed his studies in Chemical Engineering at Tulane University in New Orleans. The Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, Mississippi, nurtured their young employee and sent him off to graduate school at Harvard University to achieve his Masters Degree in Civil Engineering during the early 40s.
At the end of World War II, the entrepreneurial seed began to germinate and in January 1946, Eustis Engineering Company, Inc., was launched in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Its first business address was at the corner of Grove and Cherry Streets in a storefront which sat diagonally across from City Hall and across the street from the city jail. Mr. Eustis often told the story of visiting the courthouse across the street since his storefront didn't have even the most basic indoor plumbing facilities. Many of his first employees were colleagues from the Vicksburg Corps of Engineers. His first secretary was male. The firm provided surveying services as well as soil and foundation engineering services during those formative years. Mr. Eustis points with pride to the investigation we performed for the Rex Brown Steam Electric Station in Jackson, Mississippi, as the first large geotechnical project undertaken as a company. Many of the early projects were power stations, both in Louisiana and Mississippi, as well as infrastructure improvements for highways, airports, water towers, and schools in and around Vicksburg.
Charles A. Bragg, a salesman of meat slicers and grocery scales, called on Mr. Eustis to outfit his fledgling lab. They immediately struck up a friendship and Mr. Eustis asked Mr. Bragg to join his business. After they became partners, they realized they had to move the business in order for it to grow. So in 1949, Mr. Bragg moved to New Orleans to generate work for the business and establish a base of operations for the company. They setup shop in the 3600 block of Airline Highway which, at that time, was the major north/south artery in and out of New Orleans.
Many of the folks from Mississippi moved to New Orleans and provided the nucleus for the drilling, laboratory and engineering operations. The company worked on several underpasses which now dot the city, in addition to many other transportation ribbons throughout the region.
During the early 50s, Eustis Engineering did drilling for offshore structures (in shallow water then) as well as the Harvey Tunnel, the Mississippi River Bridge (Crescent City Connection) and the first Lake Pontchartrain Causeway Bridge. The City of New Orleans was building a new Civic Center while Ochsner Hospital was building in Jefferson Parish. Oil and gas were still king in Louisiana and precipitated a lot of work both offshore and along the petrochemical corridor between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. More schools, subdivisions and public libraries were being added to the landscape as well as TV stations, football stadiums, and shopping centers.
We crossed Mobile Bay with a new interstate tunnel and bridges over the Mississippi River at Vicksburg and the Ohio River at Louisville. As the baby boomers were reaching their teenage years, developers saw the need for additional shopping centers; colleges and universities saw the need for additional buildings; and hospitals, country clubs, and bowling alleys sprouted up everywhere. Of course, oil and gas continued to grow as did the infrastructure needs of southeastern Louisiana.
The colleges and universities of the state continued to expand during the whole decade of the 60s. Design of the interstate system occupied much of our time in Alabama and Louisiana and even took us to river crossings in Tennessee and Kentucky. During the early 60s, the Dock Board of New Orleans upgraded many of the wharves along the river. The Mississippi River Gulf Outlet was developed, and the ITM Tower and The Rivergate were constructed at the foot of Canal Street. The Orleans Levee District was working on their infrastructure, and design was begun on the Toledo Bend Dam and Reservoir on the Sabine River between Louisiana and Texas. The skyline of downtown New Orleans didn't really start to change until the Dome Stadium in the late 60s revitalized Poydras Street. The skyline reached full height with the completion of One Shell Square. The mid-60s also ushered in the investigation of nuclear power plant sites at Waterford and River Bend which were built and several other sites which were not. Hospitals, shopping centers, places of culture and entertainment continued to grow in the late 60s.
While red mud lake impoundment stockpiles were growing in the river parishes, Poydras Street saw the addition of the Federal Office Building, Pan American Life Insurance Building, Hyatt Regency Hotel and Poydras Plaza Office Buildings. During the early 70s, downtown New Orleans continued to flourish with the addition of the Piazza d'Italia, Louis Armstrong Memorial Park, Sheraton Hotel, and New Orleans Convention and Exhibition Center. The late 70s brought us additional river crossings at New Orleans and Gramercy, and work on the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway at Mobile along with infrastructure work at the Jordon Road terminal, and designs for the Lake Pontchartrain and vicinity hurricane protection levee.
Office buildings sprang up along Poydras Street at 1515, 1555, 1615 as well as the Energy Center and additional work at Canal Place. Shopping centers in Kenner and the west bank, as well as numerous projects for the World's Fair of 1984, highlighted the first half of the 80s.
The glut of hotel rooms and office space, together with the attendant downturn in the New Orleans area economy, caused us to reevaluate the services we were performing. With the encouragement of our environmental clients, we began to actively pursue environmental drilling jobs which were being mandated by the EPA. The EPA also put a deadline on Jefferson Parish to improve its entire sewerage collection system which required massive amounts of construction quality control and materials testing services. Encouraged by our geotechnical clients we expanded our services to materials testing and construction quality control in the mid-80s.
Universities throughout southeastern Louisiana continued to experience the onslaught of the baby boomers. Hospitals were expanding while the Orleans Levee Board was doing massive renovations to their infrastructure. Tourism and convention business sparked our economy in the late 80s with the expansion of the New Orleans Convention Center and the New Orleans Aquarium and the Riverfront Park. Work was also started on the Pontchartrain Center in Kenner as well as continuing improvements to the New Orleans International Airport.
Back in the 1960s, we analyzed microwave towers for the utility companies, and in the 90s, a considerable amount of our geotechnical and materials testing business focused on cellular tower sites. Our area economy absorbed the hotel space and office glut and moved forward once again.
Also, in the 90s and into the 21st Century, the Corps of Engineers began the massive effort of flood control in Jefferson and Orleans Parish with its SELA projects. This was accompanied by the construction and controversy of numerous casinos in Louisiana and Mississippi. Then came Hurricane Katrina ....
As you can see, that entrepreneurial seed planted more than 60 years ago has massive branches which reach out and serve the needs of our clients throughout the central southeast. Looking over the many vistas where our work has taken us, we have assisted in the design of thousands of utilitarian forms and architectural shapes. These forms and shapes create a skyline on the horizon which with pride we call our own.