Neil and Billie Jane Lampson didn’t have to look far for inspiration when they decided their growing crane company needed a headquarters building.
Neil Lampson enlisted Walt Trask, his head engineer and co-inventor on patented crane technology, and sketched out a building that looked like the boom of one of the company’s heavy lift cranes.
The result is one of the more striking company-owned and occupied office buildings in the Tri-Cities, a glassy, angled structure perched aside the Columbia River on the Kennewick side of the cable bridge at 607 E. Columbia Drive.
“For someone who may not be familiar with the crane industry, this may seem like an odd design, but for an avid crane enthusiast, it is a rather innovative and interesting design,” said Kate Lampson, director of strategic communication and the third generation of the family to work in the business.
Neil F. Lampson Inc., now Lampson International Co., moved into the four-story building in September 1980 after a year or so of construction. Forty-three years later, the unique building still serves the company well and has required little more than new carpeting.
Kate Lampson said there was little debate about the form back in the late 1970s, when her grandfather decided to build. Neil and Billie Jane incorporated in 1946 as a small drayage company.
Today, Lampson is among the largest crane-owning companies in the world with offices in Kennewick, Pasco, Seattle, Denver, Houston and Laveen, Arizona, as well as in Canada and Australia.
In the early years, the Lampsons ran their company from a Quonset hut at Gum Street and Columbia Drive.
The team knew the site existed and that they wanted a building that spoke to the world of construction cranes. Kate Lampson said that once designed, construction was relatively straightforward and carried out mostly by the company itself.
The superstructure was prefabricated as were the concrete foundation walls. Three cranes – all Lampson models, naturally – lifted the former onto the latter.
The design was one innovation. The all-glass facade was another.
The wall of glass means every office has an outside view.
To the north, a massive Lampson-built crane positioned at Big Pasco Industrial Park is visible across the river.
Another innovation is the Lampson Blue Room, a first-floor suite with a kitchen, auditorium and piano bar fashioned from a piano once owned by the founders. The space accommodates employees and community events and has been used for special events.
But it is the fourth floor that takes “innovative design” to the next level.
The floor where Bill Lampson oversees the company as CEO doubles as a gallery for models of the company’s various cranes and inventions. The floor itself is suspended from the building frame by 1 ½-inch stainless steel wire rope, each consisting of seven braids.
“This is the same type of wire rope that we use on our cranes, so we know that it’s sturdy and reliable,” Kate Lampson said.
Company leaders relish sharing the “hanging floor” detail with guests.
“It’s always interesting to see the reactions on people’s faces when the topic comes up in a meeting and it is their first time in our building,” she said.
Lampson executives share the top floor with the safety and purchasing departments, accounts payable, receivables and payroll departments and with the marketing and information technology teams.
Engineering occupies the third floor and the second is used for operations and training.
While the building serves the global crane company well, Kate Lampson acknowledged the future could bring updates.
“Right now we don’t have any plans for expansion although I am sure that with any older building, there will be repairs and replacements in the future. For now, it stands tall and continues to carry on the legacy that my grandparents started so many years ago,” she said.
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