Celebrating C.S Davidson’s 100th anniversary

February 2023

A company that has been around for 100 years has more than a few stories to tell. To help celebrate C.S. Davidson reaching the milestone this year, we’ll be putting out a series of blog articles on the company’s history and the people who have helped C.S. Davidson survive and thrive for the past century. 

The company was technically founded in 1923 by Carl Shaefer – the original C.S. – but the family he was born into helped mold him into the business owner he became. 

Carl was born in 1888 in Taneytown, Maryland, but the family moved to Hanover, Pennsylvania, soon after. His father, McClellan Davidson, owned and operated a plumbing and heating business, Davidson Heating and Construction, which is still in existence to this day, though the name has changed. McClellan also previously ran a hardware store in Taneytown. Through his father’s influence, Carl saw and gained a keen interest in what went into making things work. 

Carl graduated from Washington and Lee University with a degree in civil engineering and is thought to be the first Davidson to go to college. As an undergraduate, he received the University Scholarship in civil engineering. Not only that, but he was a founding member of an honor society, Omicron Delta Kappa, at the university.

C.S. joins the workforce, a company is born 

After college, he joined fellow surveyor, E.C. Crum, to form Crum & Davidson, an engineering firm in Maryland which specialized in sewer engineering, mapping and surveying for nearby municipalities and utility companies.

C. S. Davidson

After proudly serving in the U.S. Army during World War I, Carl returned home and gained employment as an engineer with a large construction firm operating primarily in Pittsburgh and eastern Ohio. He moved back to South Central Pennsylvania in 1921 and joined his father’s business in Hanover.  

After becoming a registered land surveyor and professional engineer with his father’s company, Carl finally needed to scratch the entrepreneurial itch. In 1923, he opened his office in Hanover, PA., officially opening for business as C.S. Davidson, a private surveying and engineering firm. The business was soon moved to York City, where the first office was located on the second floor of a small building shared by the York Water Company, situated on Market Street just next to the Yorktowne Hotel. Future moves included several offices on North George Street and 25 East Philadelphia Street, all located within the Central Business Section of York City, which Carl carefully mapped. 

Not your average engineer

Among the company’s early clients was West York Borough. In 1926, Carl became the borough’s engineer of record, and C.S. Davidson, Inc. is still the borough’s engineer of record.

“It’s funny to think about,” said David Davidson, currently the company’s chief financial officer and a former C.S. Davidson president. “My grandfather started with engineering and surveying, and that was basically it. Now we do all kinds of work he never imagined possible, like developing our own computer software products.” 

But Carl did far more than just survey and engineer. He was the engineer for the layout and construction of the Country Club of York and created a tabletop, plaster of Paris scale model of the club and golf course when designing it. Carl was also an avid and tournament-winning golfer in his own right. 

“Later in his career – as though he weren’t busy enough already – Carl started a blueprint business, which of course went the way of the horse and buggy when xerography started,” Davidson offered. “When the company was on East Philadelphia Street, he had the engineering and blueprint companies in the same building and was also running the plumbing business simultaneously.”

The next generation appears

Meanwhile, Carl’s son, David Davidson Sr., was serving his country in the U.S. Naval Construction Battalions, better known as the Seabees, in the Pacific Theater of World War II. After making it home, David graduated from Dartmouth College and joined the family business in 1946.  

For a brief time, the firm was known as “C.S. Davidson & Son” until its official incorporation in 1948, when Dave Sr. was named vice president. With Carl and Dave Sr. working together, the company’s role as municipal engineer continued to grow in York County, and the post-WW2 boom in housing kept the company busy for years to come.  

Stay tuned for the next installment of C.S. Davidson’s 100-year history!