Our Rich History

Founded in 1908 by Robert M. Sutton, Southwestern Electrical transformed the “Cowtown” of Wichita, Kansas, into the modern-day city it is today. Homer S. Fox joined Mr. Sutton in 1908 as his business partner in a modest 22-foot by 40-foot warehouse space. Before the end of 1908, Southwestern Electrical took off and required expansion. The business moved to 123 N. Market in Wichita, where it remained for almost 50 years.

Expansion and Reform

1908 Company Milestone

Southwestern Electrical was formed under United Electric Co as the new retail side of the company, with Mr. Robert Sutton as Manager.

Mr. Sutton was born in Wichita and began his electrical career in the 7th grade by working in his spare time for the Wichita Electrical Supply & Construction Company. After completion of school, Mr. Sutton continued to work for the company as they changed the name to the United Electric Co. Mr. Sutton quickly discovered a need for a retail electrical business and was asked to be the manager for the newly formed asset of the company which was named Southwestern Electrical Company (SWECO).

Expansion and Reform

1910

Company Milestone

The company’s first location was a modest 25 by 22-foot space. It expanded 40 feet in only six months, and after the first year, an even larger space was needed. The business moved to a 3-story building at 123 N. Market, where it sold electrical fixtures from top to bottom and remained until 1956.

Featured Project

Beacon Building: Wichita’s 3rd skyscraper

1911 Featured Project

Schweiter Building: Wichita’s 4th skyscraper. This one-of-a-kind building still stands today. It was meant to match the height of the Beacon Building.

1913

Company Milestone

As the retail business continued to boom and resources maxed out, United Electric Co decided to sell the retail portion of the business. The executives at United Electric made it clear Mr. Sutton was the first choice:

“Mr. Sutton and Mr. Violette seem like my own boys, and when an opportunity came to recognize their faithfulness and long service, I did not split hairs in helping them put this deal over. They were given the preference because they deserved it, and then they will continue the present high standard of the Southwestern. ”

Mr. Sutton, Ed P. Violette and Charles H. Reber purchased the retail portion of the business for $16,000.00, which at the time was the largest sale of its kind in Wichita.

SWECO began with the sales of lighting fixtures. It was evident that the times were evolving, and SWECO adapted to meet the customer’s needs for everything electrical. The company would proceed to work with builders and homeowners in installing complete electrical systems in hundreds of homes and buildings across the city.

In the News

Contractor Ad for Work

Featured Project

Carnegie Library: SWECO was awarded the electrical contract for electric lighting work.

1915 Featured Projects

  • Fourth National Bank: One of the finest bank buildings
    of its time. It was later converted into the Exchange Place Building.
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Webster Elementary

1919

In the News

Article describing the ebb and flow of Southwestern Electrical Company

Featured Projects

As the population increased, SWECO was there to meet the needs of the community. SWECO contributed to the installation of the electrical components for the following schools:

  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Webster Elementary
  • Caldwell High School
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Washington Elementary
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Sunnyside
  • USD 361 Anthony High School
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Emerson
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Woodland School

Watson Motor Company: SWECO provided the electrical infrastructure for a new 5-story brick structure that was located where Century II now sits.

The Roaring 20s

1921

In the News
  • SWECO continued to adapt to the growing needs of Wichita and its surrounding areas; an ad listed out the projects it was proud to be associated with and how it was going to continue to progress in the future.
  • SWECO Ad With Vision and Employees
Featured Projects
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Woodland School Addition
  • Miller Theatre: Wichita’s premiere movie theater at 115 N. Broadway from 1921 until its demolition in 1972
  • Wheeler, Kelly, Hagny Building: Located at 120 S. Market, this building was home to the Wichita Trading Market.
  • Fourth National Bank: New building erected after original location was demolished across the street
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Roosevelt Elementary

1922

Company Milestone

W. H. Shuker joined the SWECO family as Superintendent of construction. Mr. Shuker was well-renowned throughout the city as an electrical expert, with a resume including the wiring of the first modern building in Wichita and work as an electrical inspector.

In the News
  • Southwestern Workers Shoot 147 Rabbits: A charity rabbit hunt competition between the office staff and the field staff named “Pencil Pushers” and “Wire Pullers.” The event donated 147 rabbits to the Salvation Army for food.
  • Everything Electrical
  • Article about Mr. Sutton’s beginnings
Featured Projects
  • Broadview Hotel: The hotel staked its claim as one of the most recognizable buildings in the Wichita skyline. SWECO provided all the wiring and lighting components.
  • Lassen Hotel
  • First National Bank: This was a design-build project with electrical engineering by SWECO. It was the largest office building of its time and took over three rail cars of conduit, 700 light fixtures, and contracted at $45k in electrical.
  • Crestview Country Club: Crestview Country Club was built on the WSU campus, and SWECO started its long relationship with Crestview.

1923

In the News
  • Wichita Courthouse: SWECO was awarded the contract to wire up new lights for the courthouse.
  • Western Newspaper Union: SWECO installed wiring, lights and motors for the new facility.
Featured Project

USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Wichita HS

1924 In the News

  • Shirkmere Building: SWECO completed the electrical work for this new upscale apartment building.
  • Crestview Country Club: The new home for the country club was completed utilizing wiring and fixtures by SWECO.
  • Wichita Model Home: SWECO was an integral partner for new home developments including the Wichita Model Home, as seen in the picture from the groundbreaking ceremony.

1925

In the News
  • Article listing SWECO as the wiring contractor for over 200 homes in the Wichita area
  • SWECO was responsible for wiring up the new press for the Wichita Eagle.
  • Electrical work and radios were installed for the new Lassen Hotel.
Featured Project

Union National Bank (Dockum Drug)

1926 In the News

Hillcrest Apartments: Construction complete on Wichita’s largest apartment complex

1927 Featured Projects

  • Innes Department Store
  • Hillcrest Apartments
  • Brown Building: Located at 105 S. Broadway; still remains part of Wichita’s skyline

1928 Featured Project

WSU Wind Tunnel: One of seven universities in the U.S. to have such equipment for testing

1929 Featured Projects

  • The Commodore: Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools 25th & Jackson
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Horace Mann School
  • KFH Radio Station: Wichita’s first radio station, and SWECO was there to wire up all the components.
  • Drake Manufacturing
  • Brown’s Service Station: Located at Douglas and Indiana, this fine new service station was able to keep your Ford motor car optimal.
  • Spine’s Clothing Company

The Great Depression

1930 Featured Projects

  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools McCormick Elementary
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools North HS Auditorium
  • WSU Admin Building
  • Allis Hotel
  • Kersting Hotel

1931

In the News
  • SWECO celebrated 23 years of being in business by posting an ad listing completed projects.
Featured Projects
  • Butts Packard Building: State-of-the-art showroom on Douglas Avenue, now home to GLMV Architecture at 1525 E. Douglas
  • Kansas Gas & Electric (Evergy): One of the finest structures of its kind and time, and still home to Evergy Downtown

1932 Featured Project

13th Street Bridge: SWECO installed lighting components for the new “Minisa” Bridge.

1933 In the News

SWECO Celebrated it’s 25th anniversary by having a major sale on almost every item in the current inventory.

1934 In the News

  • After 26 years in business, SWECO continued to be a leader in the electrical field.
  • SWECO Donates Labor
  • Southwestern displayed its best lighting options in a show window for the Mazda lamp contest.

1935 In the News

Our Lady of Perpetual Help

1936 In the News

  • Knights of Columbus
  • Southwestern Expands Again

1937

Company Milestone

SWECO sold its wholesale branch to General Electric to focus more efforts on construction.

In the News
  • Dockum Drug ad listing SWECO
  • SWECO 29th Anniversary
Featured Projects
  • Forest Hills Model Home
  • Bontz Addition
  • GE American Home

1938

In the News
  • Sarton Homes With GE
  • SWECO starts to sell AC units for home/business
  • SWECO provides power to largest AC unit in KS
Featured Project

Colonial Terrace Apartments

1939

In the News
  • Huston Nurses Home-Wesley: SWECO is awarded Nurse’s Home at Wesley
  • St. Joseph’s School: Completion ad for St. Joseph School Addition
Featured Project

Steffen’s Ice Cream

A Time of War

1940

In the News
  • 1940 GE Line
  • SWECO showcasing long list of radios for sale
Featured Project

St. Mark’s School

1941-1946

In the News
  • 1942 – 43 homes on Bartlett Plaza completed
  • 1943 – SWECO celebrates 36 years
Featured Projects
  • 1941 – USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Franklin Elementary
  • 1942 – Municipal Airport Admin Building Addition
  • 1946 – Miller’s “66” Service-Maythorne
  • 1946 – SWECO’s showroom displaying new AC Units available.

1947

Company Milestone

Mr. Sutton and Mr. Fox announced the sale of SWECO. Jack Carpenter became president and continued to steer the company through the 50s and 60s.

In the News
  • 40th Anniversary X-Mas Ad
  • Window Storefront advertisement promoting the new technology of electric cooking for the 40th Anniversary of SWECO.

1948 Featured Projects

  • Innes Department Store
  • Henry’s

1949

In the News

SWECO 4 Divisions 41 Years

Featured Project

Fredonia & Pratt Hospitals

The Golden Age

1950 In the News

  • Crest Theatre
  • St. Anthony’s Church Wellington, KS
  • 1950 ad with Model T
  • SWECO received national praise for advertising achievements
  • Jack Carpenter elected President of NECA

1951

In the News

SWECO recognized nationally for their advertising over the years

Featured Projects
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Ingalls (Spaght) Elementary
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Skinner Elementary
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Longfellow Elementary

1952 Featured Projects

  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Clark Elementary
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Curtis Interm School
  • East Airport Admin Building
  • WSU Female Dorm
  • Municipal Airport Hangers

1953

In the News
  • Banker’s Investment Co Completion
  • Crestview Country Club: SWECO teamed up once again with Crestview to remodel.
  • Holy Cross Lutheran School Completion
Featured Projects
  • Kansas Gas & Electric Remodel
  • Wichita Traffic Signals: SWECO began the installation of the first traffic/crosswalk signals in the city.
  • Banker’s Investment: Modern banking building downtown
  • KEDD: Wichita’s first TV station
  • Dillon’s

1954-1955

In the News

1955 – KARD Radio Station

Featured Projects
  • 1954 – USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Mayberry Int. School
  • 1954 – USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Portable Units (45)
  • 1954 – New Vu Theatre: Located at E. Douglas and Broadway
  • 1955 – USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Woodman Elementary
  • 1955 – USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Portable Units (65)
  • 1955 – Fourth National Bank Addition

1956

Company Milestones
  • After 48 years at 123 N. Market, the company moved to its new showroom at 1st and Hydraulic, where it still operates.
  • Macbeth Gelbach became President of SWECO.
In the News

Kapaun HS: SWECO Awarded Kapaun HS Project

Featured Projects
  • Seneca Square
  • Cessna Prospect Plan: SWECO joined forces to lay the electrical infrastructure for the Cessna plant.

1957 Featured Projects

  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Hadley Middle School
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Kelly Elementary
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools South High School

1958 Company Milestones

Celebrating 50 years of business by showcasing full line of electrical components and appliances; located at 1st and Hydraulic where the home office still operates today.

The Social Revolution

1961

In the News

SWECO ad for service

Featured Projects
  • Colorado Derby
  • USD 259 Wichita Public Schools Cleveland Elementary

1962-1963 Featured Projects

  • 1962 – Brookhaven Nursing Home
  • 1963 – West Side Baptist Church

1964

Company Milestone

SWECO filed Articles of Incorporation

Featured Project

Bishop Carroll HS

1965 Featured Projects

  • Cessna Service Parts Building
  • Cessna Pawnee Plant Addition

1967 Featured Projects

  • Wichita Eagle
  • Garvey Building

1968-1969 Featured Projects

  • 1968 – Southwestern Bell
  • 1969 – USD 361 Anthony Harper

A Pivot of Change

1971 Featured Project

Bishop Carroll Remodel

1972-1976

Company Milestone

1976 – SWECO licensed to sell and install telephone systems

Featured Projects
  • 1972 – Douglas Bridge Lighting
  • 1972 – National Bank of Wichita
  • 1975 – U.S. Postal Service Center-Airport

Pop Culture and Technology

1985 Featured Project

Mycro-Tek

1987-1989

Company Milestone

1987 – Walter Anderson became President of SWECO.

Featured Projects
  • 1987 – J. I. Case Design-Build
  • 1989 – MPF Building-Spirit: State-of-the-art manufacturing facility and warehouse for Boeing; Spirit still does service work at the facility today

Peace, Prosperity and the Internet

1990-1991

Company Milestone

1991 – Tele-Systems bought telephone base from SWECO

Featured Project

1990 – West Wichita Family Physicians

1995-1999

Company Milestones
  • 1995 –SWECO establishes a telecom department; adding voice, data and fiber optics to services provided.
  • 1999 – H.L. Boyles became President of SWECO.
Featured Projects
  • 1997 –MOB Riverside Design-Build
  • 1998 – BG Products: Design-build and new construction of corporate offices and manufacturing plant

A New Millennium

2002-2007 Featured Projects

  • 2002 – Galichia Heart Hospital
  • 2006 – West River Plaza Hope: Design-build medical office building, now home of the Hampel Oil Company
  • 2007 – City of Wichita EQUOS Bed: H20 pumped out of Little Arkansas to the Equifier Base

2008-2009

Company Milestone

2008 – SWECO celebrated 100 years in business: Current President H.L Boyles and Vice President Dick Drake discuss the benefits of working for Southwestern; which has played such an integral part in construction in Wichita.

Featured Projects
  • 2008 – Crestview CC 19th Hole Bar/Restaurant
  • 2009 – Via Christi 7th Floor Cancer Wing
  • 2009 – McConnell AFB Family Housing: Removed existing OH Lines and installed underground banks for housing units

Economic Recovery and Expansion

2010 Featured Project

Medicine Lodge Hospital: Renovation of the existing hospital, plus new construction

2011 Company Milestone

Richard Drake became President of SWECO.

2012 In the News

Ad thanking vendors on Tornado Relief

2014-2015 Featured Projects

  • 2014 – McConnell AFB KC-46A Apron Fuel: Installation of electrical, grounding, lightning and cathodic protection
  • 2014 – Spirit Aero: Raw stock and tool storage
  • 2015 – SWECO secured entries for USD 259 Wichita Public Schools

2016 Featured Project

Lux Apartments: Former KGE building renovated for new luxury apartments

2018-2019

Company Milestone

2018 – Aaron Drake became President of SWECO.

Featured Projects
  • 2018 – Spirit CFF SW Expansion
  • 2019 – Holly Frontier El Dorado Turnaround: Labor only

Today and Beyond

2023 Company Milestone

Southwestern is set to celebrate their 115th anniversary of being in business.