George W. White was only 30 years old when he left his homestead in Pamelia, New York and came to Watertown to form a “hay press business” aka hay baler with “hay buyer” Henry C. Anthony and Egbert W. Knapp of the E.W. Knapp Lumber Company.
At first, Mr. White was hesitant about entering the business world, as 1892 and the two following years were immersed in an economic depression. Furthermore, no one knew for certain whether the manufacture of hay presses would be a profitable venture. Finally, after carefully considering the idea, Mr. White agreed to enter into the partnership, and business was started in September 1892, with each of the three partners having an equal share in the new enterprise.
The new venture, called the Knapp Lumber Company, overcame the economic obstacles of the early 1890’s, chiefly through keen awareness of customer needs in a very competitive market, and the ability to enter into other product lines other than hay press manufacturing. Slowly the company began to prosper.
Mr. Knapp sold his company interest to his partners in 1893 and the establishment was called White & Sullivan, with Mr. White as the senior member, and Mr. Sullivan as the junior member.
White & Sullivan continued business at 27 Molton Street until 1906 when the plant and offices were moved to a building constructed on a vacant lot at the corner of Olive and 231 North Rutland Street in Watertown. A large warehouse and shop were established and eventually the plant was expanded to a size five times larger than its former location.
The establishment of White & Sullivan existed for 17 years, until April 1913, when the partnership was dissolved. Mr. Sullivan sold his interest to Mr. White and withdrew from the company while Mr. White’s son, Ralph, purchased a third of the business. The organization’s name was also changed to what it is legally today – G.W. White & Son, Inc.
During World War I, G.W. took an active part in fund drives, serving as captain of a men’s team in the Liberty and Victory loan campaigns. G.W. White passed away on February 10, 1958, at the age of 96. In 1957, his son Ralph died and his son, Roger W. White, became president of the company.
Under Roger’s tenure, in January 1967, G.W. White & Son, Inc. purchased W.S. Corbin and Sons, a Gouverneur building supply, fuel oil, and coal dealer. Renamed White’s Building & Supply, the store is still operating on Depot Street today. In 1969, the business expanded into Pulaski, adding a third store on Rome Road.
In the late 1990’s when Roger W. White retired, his four children – Bradford, Roger Jr (Ted), Sarah and Jonathan – took over the day-to-day management and operation of the company.
In 2001, we added a fourth store on James Street in Clayton, and an enclosed drive-thru lumberyard. What was formerly the Thousand Island Bowling Center became a full-service home construction and repair store, with a 10,000 square foot showroom and four storage buildings.
Tragically, in 2010, a fire completely destroyed the Pulaski store. Thankfully, no one was hurt, and our surrounding neighbors were unharmed. The community pulled together, as more than 14 fire companies answered the call, and everyone offered their support and understanding. The company fulfilled orders and deliveries through the other stores until the new store was completed, and remain honored by our customers’ continued loyalty throughout the ordeal.
Today, White’s Lumber & Building Supply continues to serve our customers with one mission in mind: to help them reach their goals with great products, low prices, and expert advice.