Celebrating C.S Davidson’s 100th anniversary – second installment

May 2023

The C.S. Davidson we know today was officially incorporated in 1948. By then, Carl Davidson’s son, David Davidson Sr., had returned from serving in the Navy in World War II and was at work in the family business under his father’s keen eye.

As we briefly mentioned in the first installment of our 100-year history blog series, the baby and housing boom that occurred after WWII provided plenty of work to keep the company humming along in those years.

Changing the face of York

At that point, C.S. Davidson was working primarily with private clients, mainly real estate developers. The early 1950s saw some of the first major development outside York’s downtown, so the company was involved in creating neighborhoods like Haines Acres and Marlborough West from the ground up – surveying the site to establish the property boundaries and map the topography and drainage patterns.

C. S. Davidson planners would then lay out streets and lots to get a viable layout and maximize the number of lots, which is often a developer’s primary goal.

“York and the rest of York County changed dramatically in the 1950s and 1960s with all the development and the construction of the interstate highway system,” said David Davidson, C.S. Davidson’s chief financial officer and a former company president.

At this time, Davidson worked for the company during the summers as a surveyor. In those days, surveying was far more labor intensive and required a crew of three people. Now, a single person can go out with a GPS system and can handle most surveying jobs.

Focus on environment pushes company toward municipal specialization

The early 1960s saw an increase in awareness of environmental issues around the country, as largely unregulated industrial waste polluted the air and water on which communities rely.

The federal government began mandating sanitation programs, and soon municipal authorities were created across the commonwealth to build and oversee sewer and wastewater systems.

Davidson’s father, David Davidson Senior, was president at the time and saw the shift coming. He began acquiring municipal clients which needed a civil engineer to plan, construct and inspect the new systems. Now, C.S. Davidson represents most of York County’s 72 municipalities, and municipal work represents the bulk of what the company does. In the past, the company served almost entirely private clients.

“I think the shift to municipal engineering was a good choice,” said Davidson. “Real estate development tends to be boom and bust. When times are good everyone wants to get plans approved and start building, but when the economy tanks, that all stops. But municipalities still have their jobs to do, regardless of the economy.”

Early computers begin to change operations

Technology in the office was just beginning to change in the early-to-mid 1960s. At that time, surveyors would bring their field notes back and calculate latitude and longitude to establish the coordinates of points located in the field. These calculations were a very time-consuming manual process involving logarithms and an adding machine.

Despite the lengthy, error-prone process, this was how all firms did surveying calculations at the time. The advent of then-modern computers in the office significantly reduced the time it took to do the calculations.

Passing the torch

Carl Davidson semi-retired in the mid-1950s, and his son, David Sr., took the reins of the company. Carl passed away in 1965 at the age of 72. His loss was felt deeply by much of the York community. But with David Sr. at the helm for several years, the company was on firm ground and primed for the future.

Check back in another month or two for part three of C.S. Davidson’s 100-year history!