J. Gordon Turnbull - Civil Engineer

11239 Lake Shore Boulevard
J. Gordon Turnbull
J. Gordon Turnbull

J. Gordon Turnbull was an internationally known civil engineer. His work as a consulting engineer in design and construction included extensive foreign and domestic industrial facilities in the automotive, aircraft, rubber, atomic energy, and hydro-electric development projects.

John Gordon Turnbull was born on November 8, 1891, in San Francisco to Alexander and Margaret Turnbull. He studied at Université Catholique de Louvain, Belgium, from 1907 to 1910.

At age 47, Gordon married Susan Aycock in 1938. She was born on November 12, 1912. They had three children: John Gordon Jr., Alexander, and Susan Gay.

He began his career in San Francisco in 1911 as a draftsman for the George H. Tay Company, where he gained experience with large industrial projects such as hydro-electric plants, waterworks, and power plants.

In 1913, Turnbull worked as a draftsman with Josiah C. Moore in Portland, Oregon, drafting power plants, sawmills, and paper mills. He worked with the supervising architect of the Seattle Public Schools. Within three years, he became a partner with the W. A. Kramer & Company in Portland.

In 1917, he moved his base to Detroit, Michigan. His first work there was with the Hudson Motor Company. Two years later be became the chief engineer for the Detroit firm of Albert Kahn Associates to work on the Burroughs Adding Machine Company plant.

Turnbull became the consulting engineer for Ford Motor Company’s River Rouge Complex, the largest integrated factory globally. The complex inspired the GAZ factory in the Soviet Union. From 1927 to 1932, Turnbull worked as a consulting engineer for the Soviet Union, designing the steel, foundry, tractor, and automobile factories.

From 1935 to 1940, Mr. Turnbull became a consulting construction engineer for the General Motors Corporation, working on constructing the Detroit Diesel, the Allison Engine, and the Electro-Motive plants.

Mr. Turnbull established J. Gordon Turnbull, Incorporated in August 1941 with the main office at 2630 Chester Avenue in Cleveland with branch offices in Dallas and Kansas City. In addition to his Bratenahl home, he had a summer home at Findlay Lake, New York.

JGT had a large hand in local industrial development. They designed the Fruehauf Trailer Company plant in Avon, the White Motor Bus plant, and the Lucas Machine plant when it moved from Bratenahl.

During World War II, the firm designed numerous military projects in the United States and abroad, including Wright Field (Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) in Dayton, the Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant in Dallas, Texas.

During World War II, the U.S. Army purchased 640 square miles of land in Richland, Washington, and the now-vanished towns of White Bluffs and Hanford just upriver for the Manhatten Project. JGT planned and designed the “Atomic Town.”

Gordon died on April 1, 1953, after a long illness in his Los Angles home and was buried in Glen Haven Memorial Park in Sylmar, California. J. Gordon Turnbull, Inc. continued to operate after its founder’s death. On March 20, 2006, Susan died and was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery in Ballard, California.