The History of Tudor Companies starts with the early years of founder Simon W. Tudor and traces the story of how a family business has evolved and endured over the last 100 years to become one of the leading building construction and real estate development companies in the South.
Simon W. Tudor was born November 5, 1886 in Kirksville, Kentucky. He was the fourth of twelve children, born into a poor but hardworking family. His father was a farmer, and the children helped out in the tobacco fields whenever necessary. There was no formal schooling available, but in 1905 at the age of 18 Simon was sent to Georgetown Academy and College to begin his secondary education.
With his background of hard physical work and his aggressive, competitive nature he immediately developed a love of all athletics. In 1906 he played his first year of football for Georgetown and quickly showed the leadership ability that would become his trademark for the rest of his life.
Simon W. “Toot’ Tudor played the center position and developed and innovative defensive technique which was labeled a “roving center.” This later evolved into the position known today as “linebacker.” During his stay at Georgetown, “Toot” was elected captain of the team and selected to be on the All Kentucky Team. In 1909 Georgetown football team was later recognized as one of the best teams in Georgetown history.
Simon was also a star player for the Georgetown basketball team and pitched for the baseball team, where he was considered a minor league prospect. For his achievements in the field of athletics he was elected to the Georgetown College Athletic Hall of Fame.
In September 1910 “Toot” Tudor was asked to come to Pineville and serve as Louisiana College’s first athletic director coaching all sports. L.C. had opened in 1906 and was anxious to compete in intercollegiate athletics.
Since he hadn’t yet finished his college degree, “Toot” entered as a student, participating in and coaching all sports. (The only criteria at this time was to be enrolled as a student, there was no limit on the number of years to participate in athletics.)
The first year (1910) Tudor’s young football team struggled, losing game after game. However by the fall of 1911 the Wildcat team, (named by Tudor for his beloved Kentucky Wildcats) went undefeated with only three points scored against them the entire season. During this period, 1911-1912, “Toot” also coached and played on successful basketball, baseball, and track teams.
After two seasons at L.C., Tudor was recruited by Centenary and coached its football team in the fall of 1912. Homesick for Central Louisiana, “Toot” resumed his studies at Louisiana College in the spring of 1913.
Simon W. Tudor graduated from Louisiana College in the spring of 1913. At that time he resumed his duties as athletic director and continued in that position until 1916.
While at L.C., he fell in love with Ollie Beall, daughter of W.C. Beall, one of the college’s founders. He combined coaching and courting while Ollie was a member of the women’s basketball team; they were married in 1913. Their first child Robert B. Tudor was born in 1914. He would later follow in the family athletic tradition and eventually became a partner with his father in the construction business.
After 11 years involved in college athletics, Simon entered the Rapides Parish School system and served as principal of Pineville Grammer school.
Also during this period,1917-1919, Simon began to develop and sell real estate. This was the starting point of his career in real estate and construction, a legacy which has continued until today.
Simon Tudor continued to develop and sell residential lots and build houses in the Pineville area near Louisiana College.
A partnership was formed with W.L. “Bill” Roland to pursue commercial construction. This would be the beginning of Tudor’s long history in commercial construction. James E. Ratcliff served as bookkeeper for Tudor and Roland. He would soon become partner with S.W. Tudor in the new firm Tudor and Ratcliff.
Tudor & Ratcliff Construction formed in 1927.
Tudor and Ratcliff Construction Company was formed and would continue for twenty years. The company quickly became a major force in building commercial projects in Louisiana. One of their first projects was the administration building for Central Louisiana State Hospital in Pineville, LA. The young man with the cap behind the sand pile is Bob Tudor, age 12.
The early success would continue until the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing depression of the early ‘30s. In 1930 Tudor and Ratcliff began construction of Neville High School in Monroe, LA. When the school was completed in 1931 the city of Monroe was unable to pay Tudor and Ratcliff the balance due to them because of the depression. They instead issued them “paper” which obligated the city to pay when they were financially able to do so. This temporarily forced Tudor and Ratcliff to cease doing business until their financial problems were solved.
For the next two years both S.W. Tudor and J.E. Ratcliff worked for the U.S. Home Owners Loan Corporation – a W.P.A. Agency. They did appraisals and loan processing during this period to “get by” as the depression hit Louisiana in full force.
Earlier during this 1920-39 period a second child was born to Simon and Ollie Tudor. On January 25, 1922 a daughter, Dorothy Tudor, was born. Dorothy would later marry a student athlete, Brailey Ogham from Sanford, Florida, while at Louisiana College. This would lead to a Tudor/Ogham residential business development in Central Florida in the mid 1950s.
In 1934 Simon’s son Robert B. “Bob” Tudor graduated from Louisiana College with an outstanding record as a student athlete, following in the steps of his father. He was to accomplish this success in both football, basketball, and academics – first at Bolton High School, then at Louisiana College. In 1932 while at Louisiana College he married his high school sweetheart, Lorraine Price. They soon began their family in 1934 with a daughter, Sue Tudor. Soon to follow in 1935 was a son R.B. “Buddy” Tudor, Jr., later to become the third generation in the construction business.
At the time of Bob’s graduation in 1934 the construction industry was still in the depths of the economic depression which necessitates a different method of supporting his family. For the school year 1934-1935 Bob was the only teacher in the one-room school “Wise Rural School” at Kolin.
From 1935 through 1939 Tudor and Ratcliff completed many of the well-known structures in Central Louisiana. Also during this period Bob Tudor would develop his construction expertise as field superintendent on the Hotel Bentley, offices for Security Bank in Pineville, and the new S.H. Kress Building at the corner of 3rd and Johnston.
A significant event occurred in 1936 that would allow Tudor and Ratcliff to resume their construction business. Mr. J.W. “Jack” Beasley, originally the accountant for Mr. Bentley and a senior officer in the Guaranty Bank (of which Mr. Bentley was president), told Simon he wanted him to renovate the existing Hotel Bentley and add an eight-story tower.
Simon Tudor explained that due to the money still owed on Neville High School, Tudor and Ratcliff had neither the bank credit nor the bonding that would be required. Mr. Beasley told Simon not to worry about either. He wanted Tudor and Ratcliff to do the work.
S.W. Tudor and James E. Ratcliff continued operations as the economy recovered from the depression and prepared for World War II.
Tudor & Ratcliff were involved in several significant projects related to World War II. In 1941 more than 100,000 troops were housed in and around the Central LA area. Tudor and Ratcliff constructed barracks for the Army at Camp Claiborne and began the largest residential building project ever attempted at that time in Central Louisiana. Named Forest Glen, this project occupied 93 acres on the ground of Central Louisiana State Hospital and consisted of 225 unit housing for non-commissioned officers.
Bob Tudor enlisted in the Navy in 1943 serving two years. He returned home in 1945. Shortly afterwards another son, Michael, was born to Bob and his wife, Lorraine. Michael would later graduate from Duke University and LSU Law School. This prepared him to become general counsel for Tudor Construction Company as well as real estate attorney for Tudor Enterprises.
In 1946 Bob Tudor joined his father and formed a new company, Tudor Construction Company. The partnership of Tudor and Ratcliff was terminated. A new office was constructed at 1284 Murray Street to house company operations. The office remained at that address until new offices were built in 1979 at One Centre Court on Jackson Street Extension, where the company is still located.
During the next ten years significant projects constructed by Tudor included a major expansion to Baptist Hospital in 1946 which almost doubled the hospital’s size. In 1948 Hot Wells Bath House was built, and it became a national tourist attraction for the area. In 1951 Emmanuel Baptist Church in downtown Alexandria was constructed.
During the early 1950’s a major expansion of Tudor’s construction activity took place when a partnership was formed with Brailey Odham, the husband of Bob Tudor’s sister, Dorothy. Headquartered in Sanford, Florida, the company created subdivisions and built 200 homes annually for the expanding Central Florida economy.
In 1956 Simon W. Tudor dies, passing on his construction heritage to future generations. He was recognized at the time of his death for numerous accomplishments in the community. This included serving as president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce, where he led the movement to combine the Alexandria and Pineville Chambers into a joint organization. He also served as a member of the Pineville City Council. His years of service to Louisiana College as a member of the Board of Trustees for 15 years, president of the board for 11 years, and as a major benefactor were acknowledged by the naming of the new boy’s dormitory in his honor – Tudor Hall.
In 1957, the third generation of “Construction Tudors,” Robert B. “Buddy” Tudor, Jr. completed his college education at LSU with a degree in engineering. He, like his father and grandfather, had successfully combined athletics and academics both at Bolton High School and LSU. Upon graduation he entered the U.S. Army as an officer in the anti-aircraft artillery. In 1958 Buddy returned from the Army and joined his father Bob in Tudor Construction Company. This was two years after the death of Simon Tudor.
Building for the Future
An ongoing relationship with Central Louisiana Electric Company, starting in 1952 with the construction of its first generating unit outside of Central LA in Baldwin, LA (in St. Mary Parish). This construction was followed with another contract for the civil work on the second unit in 1954 at Teche Power Station. In 1956 a contract for civil work was awarded for unit #5 at Coughlin Station in St. Landry Parish followed by unit #6 in 1959. In 1958 Tudor built the new executive office building for Cleco on Main Street in Pineville, followed by the construction of their Service Center on Highway 28 in 1959.
Bob and Buddy Tudor, the second and third generations of the Tudor building legacy, were now ready to build on the past and poised to continue into the second half of the 20th century.
The second half of the 20th century began in the 1950s with the death of Simon Tudor, founder of Tudor Construction, and the return of Bob Tudor’s son Buddy into the business. The emerging “Baby Boomer” generation created the need for construction of schools and universities, medical facilities and the emergence of a new retail concept – the “mall.”
The second and third generation father/son partnership made a decision to diversify to meet the expanding population by broadening the company base. Tudor Construction first pursued contracts throughout Louisiana and then expanding into other parts of the United States. The company developed expertise in offering real estate developers a “design/construction” package to reduce overall cost and accelerate completion time.
While pursuing other new areas of the industry, Tudor continued its concentration in the Central Louisiana market. This business strategy enabled Tudor to grow into one of the largest commercial contractors in the United States. This effort was recognized by the company’s inclusion in the Engineering News Records “Top 400 Contractors” in the United States. Many of Central Louisiana’s well-known landmarks were built by Tudor Construction during this period.
The pursuit of work outside of Louisiana led Tudor to a wide spectrum of projects including ski condominiums in Breckenridge, Colorado and high rise apartments in West Plains, Missouri. Across Louisiana, Tudor constructed universities, hospitals, apartments, public housing, schools, shopping malls, offices, banks, jails and manufacturing facilities.
In 1968 Tudor further diversified by establishing an industrial division that would concentrate on steel erection, millwright, and rigging work. The success of Tudor’s new industrial division was dependent on its willingness to travel anywhere in the United States to pursue work in its areas of expertise.
In the late 1960s a decision was made to enter the field of commercial real estate development. Tudor Enterprises was then formed as a companion company to Tudor Construction. The first endeavor (1968) was Layssar Shopping Center in Pineville. In its next major project, Tudor Enterprises joined with other partners in 1973 to develop “The Centre” on Jackson Street as a retail business center. This would lead to Tudor’s entry into the hospitality business along with other partners in the development and operation of the Cotton Gin Restaurant.
Soon to follow was the development of a distribution center for Western Electric in Pineville. In 1978, Chateau Creole Apartments were also developed in Houma, LA by a limited partnership with Buddy Tudor as developing general partner. In Baton Rouge at I-10 and Acadian Thruway Tudor would co-develop office buildings, restaurants, gasoline stations and motels.
As this 20 year period came to a close the development of a new mid-rise office would take place on Jackson Street Extension - “One Centre Court.” This building would house the new offices for Tudor Companies and office space for lease to other local businesses.
In the 1980s under the leadership and direction of their president and chief operating officer, Buddy Tudor, the Tudor Companies continued to expand both geographically and by type of work.
Commercial construction in the Central Louisiana area was “booming” in the first half of the decade as Tudor constructed many significant projects.
Tudor Construction continued to build throughout Louisiana as well as out of state. Branch offices were opened in Lafayette and Hammond, LA to compliment the existing Tudor office in Baton Rouge. The Tudor office in Denver, Colorado had been closed due to the completion of work in that area.
The largest and most significant project ever built by Tudor, the campus of the Jimmy Swaggart Ministries, Baton Rouge, LA, was constructed from 1981-1988. It consisted of over 30 different projects in excess of 125 million dollars in construction including offices, recording studios, T.V. Studios, warehouses, and a college campus including classrooms, dormitories, gymnasium, and a church seating 7,500 people.
In the early 80s Buddy Tudor pursued his dream of seeing the Hotel Bentley re-opened in its original splendor as a functioning full service facility. Few hotels of this size and age which had been unoccupied for years had ever been successfully renovated and are still in operation. Buddy’s vision was to maintain and reconstruct to their original grandeur all public spaces, and completely demolish and rebuild guest rooms to meet today’s standards.
Hotel Bentley, built in 1908, had been closed since 1968 with only one effort to re-open in 1972, closing again in 1976. It was dilapidated and facing possible demolition when Buddy, joined by his father and a group of limited partner investors, took on the monumental task. Also involved in this project was Buddy’s sister, Sue Tudor Miller, who acted as a design and restoration consultant.
Re-opening in October of 1985, the Bentley soon became known as the only “Four Star” hotel in Louisiana outside of New Orleans. For the revitalization of this historic property Tudor received the coveted award for Historic Preservation from the National Trust for Historic Preservation. After 12 years of ownership by the Hotel Bentley Partners and management by Tudor Enterprises, the Bentley was sold in 1997.
In December 1987, the Tudor Companies were saddened by the death of Robert B. Tudor, Chairman of the Board, an original partner of Tudor Construction Company with his father Simon B. Tudor.
Tudor’s Industrial Division continued to flourish. Jobs included Arkansas Cement, Gifford Hall, Foreman Cement, Stone Container, Gulf States Utilities, Gulf Oil Calcining, Williamette Industries, and Pearl River Chemical and the installation of special equipment requiring millwright and rigging work in Disney World, Orlando, FL.
Tudor Enterprises actively developed Commercial Real Estate and Apartments during this period. The Tudor Enterprises team conceived the projects, oversaw design, obtained financing and contracted to build with Tudor Construction Company. In Central LA major projects included historic renovation of the Commercial Building, 301 Jackson Place, the turnkey development of corporate offices for Cleco in Pineville and a warehouse distribution center developed for Montgomery Wards in Coughlin Industrial Park. The most challenging was the historic restoration of the Hotel Bentley. Other activity included apartments throughout Louisiana and Texas and a major office building in Baton Rouge. Tudor Enterprises became the largest Louisiana Real Estate Development Company outside of New Orleans.
In the late 80s circumstances that caused both challenges and opportunities for Tudor were the state’s economic depression and the highly publicized scandal at Swaggart Ministries. Construction slowed overall and, at Swaggart, existing projects came to an abrupt halt. Tudor Construction Company decided then to pursue emerging international markets. A smaller company was also formed by one of Tudor’s 4th generation, John Tudor. John returned home in 1986 after receiving a degree in Construction Technology from LSU. In the family tradition, John successfully combined academics and collegiate athletics. His new company, Tudor Inc, concentrated on the Central LA market while Tudor Construction Company pursued international markets and consulting projects.
Tudor Caribbean, later known as Tudor Intercontinental, was then formed. This company began consulting work in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands. As a result, in 1990 Tudor was invited to the USSR by the Soviet Agri-Business Ministry. This visit was to create a joint venture between Tudor Companies and the Agri-Business Ministry to select sites, construct, and operate hotels and resort facilities in Russia and the Soviet Republic of Georgia. Agreements were never completed, but Tudor opened branch offices in Gadansk, Poland in February, 1993.
In the mid 1990s Tudor Enterprises found demand for its services as development and construction consultants due to its experience of over 1 billion dollars of construction and 150 million dollars of real estate development. Tudor Inc, under the leadership of John Tudor, grew to become the primary construction arm of the Tudor Companies in Central Louisiana.
Buddy’s youngest son, Geoffrey, graduated from Tulane in Economics, then worked as a legislative assistant in Washington D.C. While there he developed expertise in NASA’s space program in the area of economics of business and industrial use of space vehicles. He then moved back home to join Tudor Enterprises. As a result of Geoffrey’s expertise, Tudor Enterprises entered into an interesting consulting contract in 1994 with Boeing Company in Seattle, Washington. Another son, Bill Tudor, graduated in Architecture from Tulane. He served and internship in Washington D.C., then returned home and created a successful architectural firm, CTA Architects, which gave the design/build capability to the Tudor Companies.
Dedicated to the commercial development of Central LA, armed with 75 years of construction and real estate development experience spanning four generations, the Tudor Companies have built a solid foundation for continued growth into the 21st century.
In March 2010, Tudor Companies was saddened by the death of Robert B "Buddy" Tudor who served as chairman of the Board for Tudor Companies.
Tudor, Inc. now operates through-out Louisiana constructing commercial projects such as Hospitals, Fire Stations, Schools, Industrial Plants, Civic buildings, etc.