|Founded in 1898 as Finn & Schumacher Manufacturers of Portable Bath Tubs, Thomas Finn Company is a true story of an immigrant realizing the American Dream. Born in 1869 in County Galway, Ireland. Thomas Finn immigrated to Saint Paul, MN in 1888. After ten years of hard work and industry he partnered with Henry Schumacher to apply his experience in plumbing, heating and roofing to form Finn & Schumacher. By 1906 Finn & Schumacher became Thomas Finn Roofing, Sheet Metal, and Furnace work. Over the next 30 years Thomas Finn Company would build the reputation of providing the “very best” in roofing and architectural sheet metal services. This reputation was built by providing the roofs and ductwork for some of the most important landmark buildings in Saint Paul and surrounding communities. The first important contract was installing the roof and ventilation systems for the new Saint Paul Hotel in 1909. The quality of craftsmanship lead directly to being awarded the contract to provide the ventilation system for “the most thoroughly equipped hospital in the west.” Saint Joseph Hospital located at Ninth and Exchange streets in downtown Saint Paul. Thomas Finn Company’s dedication to providing the highest quality of materials and workmanship along with the publicity surrounding these two marquee projects lead directly to Thomas Finn Company being selected to provide the copper exterior on the roof of the Saint Paul Cathedral in 1914. Not only did Thomas Finn Company lay down the original copper, they provided annual inspection and repair services over the next 80 years.
Some of the larger contracts that Thomas Finn Company completed over the next 30 years include many Saint Paul Landmarks. In the 1920’s Thomas Finn Company installed the roofs on the Lowery Hotel and Lowery Medical Arts buildings on Saint Peter Streets in downtown Saint Paul. Installation of the roofs and interior catwalks for the combined Saint Paul City Hall and Ramsey County Court House at 4th and Wabasha were completed in 1932. In 1937 work was completed on the new addition for the Fort Snelling Hospital (now the VA Medical Center). Thomas Finn Company also installed many slate roofs on the large churches that were being built all over the twin cities.
Not all jobs were huge marquee project for Thomas Finn Company. The sheet metal shop fulfilled many small contracts such as providing metal containers to hold food and silverware; a steel canopy, scullery sink, and stainless stool for the kitchen area at Fort Snelling. They made side jacks, stovepipe collars and spark arrestors to prevent fires. Many roofing contracts called for custom sheet metal parts such as “copper gutters, conductor pipe, valleys, saddles, snowguards, and corner stone box.” During the winter the shop would make metal boxes, radiator covers and desk covers. Jobs in the fifties and sixties included replacing the corrugated iron roof over the loading platforms, repairing damaged sidewalk canopies and many inspections and repairs on building roofs throughout the city.
In 1936 Thomas Finn died and his nephew Richard “Dick” Walsh took over the company. With arrangements made to purchase the company from Thomas Finn’s estate, Dick Walsh would lead the company to continued prosperity through the depression and beyond. His brother John joined him later as the bookkeeper at 370 Dayton Avenue. Dick Walsh was instrumental in establishing the Sheet Metal and Roofing Contractor National Association. Serving on the first Board of Directors as well as two terms as the President in the 1940’s. In 1946 he was elected as the 2nd Vice President of the newly established Sheet Metal And Roofing Contractors Association of Minnesota in 1946. His commitment to harmonious labor relations and civic responsibility established him as a leading figure in providing equitable pay and benefits to members of the union and influencing legislation to ensure the protection of the membership. Through it all Thomas Finn Company continued to provide roofing and sheet metal services to the surrounding communities.
Jim Walsh and his children continue to carry on the legacy of Dick Walsh and Thomas Finn Company.