A Century of Service
Cole Roofing Celebrates its Centennial Anniversary
By Chris King
COLE ROOFING Company is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Founded in 1919 in Baltimore, Maryland, the company currently employs more than 100 workers and focuses on commercial roofing work,with a diverse portfolio that includes single ply, built-up roofing, metal, wall panels, and renewable energy systems.
In 2012, William Robert Cole, known as Billy, took over the helm of the company from his father, William Roland Cole, known as Bill. Billy Cole represents the fourth generation of his family to run the business. As the company commemorated this milestone, Bill and Billy Cole shared their memories of the company and insights on the industry with Roofing.
100 YEARS OF HISTORY
Bill’s grandfather, John H. Cole Sr., founded the company as John H. Cole & Sons after World War I. “My grandfather started the business in his basement making ductwork for home furnaces,” Bill says.
The business expanded to include gutters and downspouts, which led to installing shingle roofing. “Near the end of World War WII, my grandfather died suddenly,” Bill recalls. “All three of the older sons were off in the military. My grandmother, Mary Cole, ran the business for about two years until the war ended and the sons returned.”
Two of Mary’s sons, John and Bud Cole, took over the business after the war. In the 50s, the company started installing BUR on row houses in Baltimore. In the 60s, at Bud’s initiative, the company began doing commercial work. Bud bought out his brother in the mid-60s, and the commercial side of the business continued to grow as the residential side tapered off.
“In the late 70s, I saw an opportunity with the introduction of single-ply membranes,” Bill says. “We shut down our residential side and trained all our steep roofers to install single-ply roofing.”
Bill Cole became president of the company in 1989 and continued to build the company, expanding into metal roofing. After years of being known as Cole Roofing, the company officially changed its name from John H. Cole & Sons to Cole Roofing Company Inc. in 1998. The business has continued to diversify in the 21st century, expanding into areas including green roofs, photovoltaic systems and metal wall panels. Bill served as president until 2012, when Billy was named president; Bill remains with the company as senior vice president.