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In 1967, Roy Lewis moved to Mobile, Ala., to begin his career in the construction business. Fresh out of college with a degree in building sciences, he began working on-site at the USA Medical Center campus, then Mobile General Hospital.
This year, Lewis – now the owner of Roy Lewis Construction Corporation – oversaw a major part of the expansion of the clinic space in the Mastin Building – the building he worked on when it was originally constructed nearly 50 years ago.
“Coming back to work on the Mastin Building addition brought back a lot of memories of things that would happen on the job – especially the jokes and pranks that the workmen would pull on one another,” Lewis said. “It was a lot more fun to work in construction back then.”
Lewis was born in Daphne, Ala., in the house his dad built. “He put my footprints in the fresh concrete on the rear steps,” Lewis recalled. His dad, a professional electrician and “jack of all trades,” finished that house a little bit at a time. Growing up, Roy always enjoyed building and said “it must’ve run in the family.” As a kid he constructed forts and tree houses; he was especially proud of a tree house he built in a chinaberry tree in the backyard.
But construction wasn’t always at the forefront of Lewis’ mind. Lewis, who had dreamt of flying since he was six years old, originally attended Auburn University to pursue a degree in aerospace engineering. He wanted to become a pilot in the military and hopefully get into the space program. His junior year, though, he flunked his physical because of a heart murmur, and he dropped out of school. It wasn’t until he began working for an architect as a draftsman that he became interested in building for a living. “I went back to Auburn, changed my curriculum, and here I am,” he said.
After graduating from Auburn University, Lewis briefly served as project manager for the Saturn rocket test platform in Huntsville, Ala. “At that time it was the only offer I got coming out of school,” he said. “Construction jobs were very limited.” Soon after – at the age of 23 – he moved to Mobile and started work completing a surgery suite at USA Medical Center.
“We finished out the interior of a surgery suite on the West side of the hospital while the Mastin Building structure was being put into place,” he said. Toward the end of the Mastin Building project, Lewis was brought in as project engineer. He was responsible for coordinating the installation of cabinets and wardrobes – “getting materials to the job.”
According to Lewis, the Mastin Building was originally built as nursing dormitories. “At the time, I was hoping to catch me a girl in nursing school,” he laughed, “but that never materialized."
Although the Mastin Building looks “pretty much the same” as it did then, Lewis said the area around it has changed tremendously. “It was sitting back in the woods, and Three Mile Creek wasn’t developed,” he said. “There was a good bit of area in the hospital that wasn’t built yet, either.”
The Mastin Building was originally built with a swimming pool on its West side to accommodate the students who lived there. “When we were putting on the addition this year, we uncovered a corner of that swimming pool and had to reposition the placement of the rear entry stoop,” Lewis said. “It’s much easier and much more cost-effective to reposition than to get rid of the swimming pool.”
Lewis and his crew – who were contracted to lay the structural foundation and the structural steel of the addition – have finished their portion of the job, which is now entering its final stage of completion.
The 2,000 square foot addition is expected to be move-in ready in October. The new space will provide 10 extra exam rooms, a physicians’ work room, patient restrooms and a staff break room.
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