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Construction, demolition company celebrates centennial anniversary

Manafort Brothers Inc. expands into R.I., develops nuclear plant decommissioning capabilities

A hundred years ago, James Manafort started knocking down houses with his hands. Today, his descendants knock down nuclear power plants with explosives.

This year marks the centennial anniversary of Manafort Brothers Incorporated, a company that provides foundational and demolition services throughout the state and New England. After expanding into Rhode Island in 2010 from Connecticut, the company has had its hand in River House Apartments, Homewood Suites near Kennedy Plaza and a new bridge for I-95 Southbound in downtown Providence, among others. Now, members of the fourth generation of the Manafort clan, Jim Jr., David, Justin and Jason Manafort, run the operation.

One hundred years later, the company has maintained its commitment to family while simultaneously expanding into fields once unimaginable. Founded in 1919 as the “New Britain House Wrecking Company,” the one-man operation consisted of James Manafort taking down houses by hand and salvaging parts of the property to resell later, said Chuck Mercier, vice president of Manafort Brothers. The elder Manafort’s four sons joined the business in 1946, which prompted the new name “Manafort Brothers.”

The family roots of the company now extend beyond blood relatives. Mercier has worked for the company for 22 years and has seen it grow — including through its absorption of Fleet Construction in Cumberland, Rhode Island, where the company now has an office. “We’re all treated like family members,” Mercier said.

In addition to construction work, Manafort Brothers has played a role in completing three out of thirteen nuclear decomissionings in U.S. history. The process required heavy-duty technologies such as explosives, excavators and hydrolic hammers. Undertakings of this size require extreme safety precaution — a reality that Manafort Brothers takes seriously.

Air, soil and water are three of the main safety concerns for demolitions, according to Professor of Engineering Kurt Pennell, who researches soil and groundwater remediation and environmental toxicology. Manafort Brothers tackles potential hazard by working with nuclear sites under negative air pressure, which involves making the atmospheric pressure within the structure less than the exterior pressure.

When asked about what the original Manafort’s working conditions would have been like a century ago, Mercier said, “I would think there wasn’t much consideration for safety. It’s paramount in all of our planning, and that just didn’t exist then.”

While the company has found opportunity in the nuclear space, they also remain focused on expanding infrastructure and developments. “They had one safety (manager), now they have two,” said Emma Andrukat, safety manager at Manafort Brothers, of their decision to hire her as a second safety manager. “They’re always looking to expand and grow.”

The company is currently working on Providence’s Waterfront Park, where they’re doing “mostly sitework,” which includes foundational concrete, grading and cement work. Another project involves the South Street Substation, an electrical station directly next to South Street Landing.

“Jobs come up and they might be challenging, but …  Manafort really doesn’t say ‘no’,” Andrukat said. “We can always figure something out, figure out how to do it.”

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