A Way Of Life
Senate Masonry’s roots run four generations deep
Every company has a journey and a story to tell. T.B. Greenstreet’s story started approximately 100 years ago. In search of opportunity and the chance to do better for his family, he moved his family from Tappahannock, Virginia, to Northeast Washington, D.C. He left behind the agricultural business and set his sights on the city life. He settled in a neighborhood called Brookland and soon found himself as a tradesmen in the building boom of the time.
It was the early 1900s and Washington, D.C., was growing. Brick was a popular building material, and most buildings were constructed with several layers. Bricklayers were in high demand. T.B. found work with a local company and then eventually opened his own business on Congress Street in Northeast, D.C.
T.B. started small, and eventually he was asked to work on various historic buildings in the District of Columbia Metro area. A notable job was the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia. His son Everett Greenstreet Sr. would join the business, and eventually the company would take on the name Congress Masonry.
A Family Affair
T.B. and his son were both union bricklayers who had grown their firm to approximately 500 employees. They completed the notable Hecht Company Warehouse project in Northeast Washington, D.C., which was the main distribution center for the burgeoning retailer. In the 1940s, they installed brick on a new distribution center for Anheuser-Busch. Almost 20 years later, they installed the brick on Sen. John Warner’s residence for builder William P. Lipscomb. The family team worked on projects large and small, simple and complex. They always took on the work their clients needed them to do.
In 1958, T.B. died at age 92, after many decades in masonry. He left behind a son and a grandson who followed him into the masonry trade and were a part of his business. This has always been the tradition of the Greenstreet family. Older generations passed down the masonry trade to the next one. The business of brick and block has always been a staple of life.
“At an early age I learned the multiple facets of the masonry business,” says Everett Greenstreet III, Vice President of Senate Masonry, Inc. At 12, I learned to do payroll, check over invoices and fill out various forms we needed for projects. When I got my driver’s license, I was sent to pick up blueprints and collect payments. Most importantly, I got to hang out with my father as he negotiated deals. In those days, a solid handshake was how things were done. My father always thanked his customers repeatedly for putting their trust in him.”
In 1964, Everett Sr. died suddenly and Everett Jr., a young 23-year-old mason, was thrust into an accelerated succession plan as he found himself behind the wheel of his father’s large masonry business. Battling the perception of youth and equaled inexperience, he persevered and continued to build on the solid reputation of his father and grandfather.
Word-of-mouth traveled quickly, and soon he started securing projects from Giant grocery stores, Safeway, Pepco and Bell Telephone Company. Grocery stores, shopping centers, power plants and telephone buildings built from solid masonry were in high demand. The suburbs in Maryland were growing.
In 1979, the union market for masons began to decline, and the need to for a non-union masonry company became a necessity to navigate the market. Senate Masonry would be established as a non-union masonry company. As the name was chosen, the Greenstreet family now had both branches of government, the Congress and the Senate, in the masonry trade.
Shortly thereafter, a familiar client —the May Department Stores Company—called, needing to restore the Hecht Company warehouse and distribution center, a building that three generations of the Greenstreet family had worked on before. Shane Greenstreet became the fourth generation of Greenstreets to work on this building.
“I was taking classes at Montgomery College studying construction management in the evenings and working on the Hecht project as a bricklayer during the day with my father,” Shane says. “My father took a very hands-on approach to this large project. Sometimes we worked weekends fixing equipment so that we never lost time during the coming week.”
Helping Employees Grow
According to Everett III and Shane, the fourth generation of the Greenstreet family to work in the masonry trade, the company has built its success on two principles: 1) Give every project your absolute best effort, and 2) Build, develop, and offer the opportunity for employees to grow and move up.
“In those days, a solid handshake was how things were done. My father always thanked his customers repeatedly for putting their trust in him.” Everett Greenstreet III, Vice President Finance, Senate Masonry, Inc.
“Many of our employees started with the company as entry-level skilled labor and are now project foremen,” Shane says. “Our operations manager started with the company 40 years ago. Our senior foreman started 20 years ago as a bricklayer. One of the most rewarding things is to watch an employee grow and learn more skills and gain confidence in their career. The relationship and bond we build with those employees is something that cannot be measured. They become family.”
Currently, the company is in new markets, such as self storage buildings, and is rekindling its roots in masonry restoration. Senate Masonry recently completed a large-scale masonry restoration project for the Heritage Foundation and for a CubeSmart Self Storage facility. In progress in 2019 are a diverse set of projects, including a car dealership, grocery store and retail center, a self storage facility and a new police station.
The company under the leadership of the third and fourth generation of the Greenstreet family is already grooming its next set of successors. Three grandchildren and soon to be a fourth are the next generation who will undoubtedly be a part of the company’s journey.
Senate Masonry continues to leverage its experience and knowledge of the trade that goes back over 100 years while embracing new technology along the way. Blueprints are now viewed on tablets and laptops and takeoffs in 3D renderings. Times are changing, but one thing remains the same. Senate Masonry will always be a family business and with a journey few can replicate.