Our Story

Above: Waldorf Astoria in 1931. Courtesy of the General Research Division, The New York Public Library, Astor, Lenox and Tilden Foundations.
Below: H. J. High’s first office building.

Born in Lafayette, Ind., Harlem John High, known affectionately as Johnny, began his construction career in New York City as a brick mason working on the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. After visiting the small town of Orlando several times, he felt the area had great promise for growth and prosperity and moved there in 1935. He worked for several building contractors as a brick mason and in 1936 decided to begin his own business of masonry and concrete-sales contracting. He developed an excellent reputation and worked on many large construction projects in Central Florida.

In 1955 he established H. J. High Construction Company at 1015 West Amelia St., Orlando. During the early years he participated in many competitively bid projects, including numerous schools for the Orange County School Board, church facilities for the Catholic Diocese of St. Augustine, hospitals and other associated buildings. In 1961 the company began work at Cape Kennedy in preparation for the Apollo moon-landing program. For seven years H. J. High Construction Company participated in a hectic work program at the Cape and was awarded one of the only two Awards of Merit issued by the Corps of Engineers for work excellence.

In 1968 Johnny High died of a sudden heart attack. His son, 24-year-old Steven W. High, then assumed the presidency of the company. During this period the company continued to grow and develop from a hard dollar-bidding contractor to a construction-industry giant executing multi-million dollar projects through varied delivery methods. In 1972 H. J. High was selected to build the $60 million main campus for Florida Hospital in Orlando. The federal Department of Health, Education, and Welfare wanted to try a new delivery technique on the job: construction management. Thus H. J. High became the first construction company to use construction management in Central Florida. In 1980 H. J. High recognized the desire on the part of sophisticated owners for design/build services, particularly in the warehousing, food services and high-tech industries which were a growing part of Central Florida’s economy. Today construction management, design/build and general contracting are the core services offered by H. J. High Construction.

In 1999 Steve’s son Robert John High joined the company, marking the third generation to lead H. J. High, and was appointed President of H. J. High in 2006. In 2001, Bart Sontag was appointed Vice President of H. J. High.

The same work excellence and dedication begun by Harlem John High in 1936 are being carried on today. As the company continues to grow, we at H. J. High look forward to serving our clients and community by constructing the very best buildings possible.