R.F. Knox Co., the metal contractor and commercial HVAC specialist known for its work on many of metro Atlanta’s highest-profile buildings, celebrates an extraordinary milestone this month—its hundredth year in business.
“It’s rare for any business to survive a century’s worth of economic volatility and technological change, but there’s a simple reason we have been able to stay in business for this long,” said Jack A. Knox, President of R.F. Knox Co., in a news release. “Our dedicated, skilled and hardworking employees made it possible. These are people who take just as much pride in their work today as their predecessors did back in 1914.”
Knox Co. employs about 250 people—including approximately 50 skilled metal
fabricators—at its 8-acre campus in Smyrna. Over the decades, the company has
completed architectural, industrial and commercial projects (particularly the
fabrication and installation of commercial HVAC ductwork) at dozens of landmark
buildings across the metro area. The list includes the state capitol building, the
Georgia Dome, Peachtree Plaza, the Atlanta Merchandise Mart and the Georgia
World Congress Center, among many others.
In recent years, R.F. Knox Co.’s clients in the burgeoning healthcare sector have included the likes of WellStar Health System, Piedmont Hospital, Northside Hospital, Kaiser Permanente, Baxter Pharmaceutical and Emory University Hospital.
The company completes up to 2,500 projects a year, the majority of which involve commercial HVAC ductwork fabrication and installation. However, R.F. Knox Co.’s Architectural & Specialty Department specializes in smaller custom projects—handrails, signs, weathervanes, elevator doors, wall accents and more made from decorative metals such as bronze, brass, copper and mirrored stainless steel.
“These types of projects are very much in keeping with our roots,” Knox said. “When my great-grandfather, Robert Fletcher Knox, started the company back in 1914, he specialized in custom jobs like these. He would make, install and repair grate fronts, stovepipe, fascia, slate roofing and boiler breeching stacks, in particular. W.H. Carrier had only just patented his design for the air conditioner, so it would take quite a few years before HVAC would become a major part of our business.”
R.F. Knox, whose apprenticeship in metalworking began in 1890, used to ride Atlanta streetcars with a smudge pot in one hand and a foldup ladder in the other. He and his business partner J.J. Maier launched Knox and Maier Co. in downtown Atlanta in May 1914. It became R.F. Knox Co. in 1924 after Maier relinquished his partnership. The company started on Marietta Street, moved to what is now Ralph McGill Boulevard in 1946 and relocated to its present location in Smyrna in 1974.
R.F. Knox, who continued bidding on jobs and visiting construction sites into his 80s and 90s, died in 1966. Second-generation president John D. Knox ran the company from 1936 to 1969, and Fred W. Knox, Jack’s father, was at the helm from 1969 to 2007. In the late 1950s, R.F. Knox Co. did extensive metalworking for the historic state capitol renovation. Its craftsmen installed all the metal (gold-plating excluded) on the 200-foot-tall Gold Dome, along with steel windowsills, fascia and other details. “That was a proud milestone for our company,” Fred Knox said.
The average employee has worked at R.F. Knox Co. for about 18 years, and many have been there for longer than 25 years. “We have even had several retire after 50 years of service,” Jack Knox said. “These days, turnover is commonplace at many companies, but our employees live and breathe R.F. Knox. They are our biggest asset, and this centennial is a testimony to their dedication.”