About Alexander Lumber

Alexander Lumber has been building communities since 1891, and we plan to continue doing so well into the future.

The following words might have been spoken by John Alexander when he founded the company, and they are every bit as true today:

People believe in family and in community, and people are going to invest in those communities and invest in homes in those communities. As long as we have customers, and as long as we find good people, Alexander Lumber has connections to those communities that will endure.

Our commitment and dedication, our service and reliability have never wavered.

Coming to America

Alexander Lumber’s history stretches far back into the 1870s when the ancestors arrived in Wisconsin from Scotland.  First to arrive was the sister and brother in law of John Alexander.  They saved up money in order to bring additional brothers and sisters over to America.  John was the youngest of the Alexander immigrants.

The Alexander family’s livelihood was tied to the sawmill business-nearly everyone in the family was somehow involved in the industry.  In those days, the vast virgin forests of Wisconsin and the upper Midwest were being cut.  The birth of lumber retailing came in the 1880s once the Stewart family of Wausau, Wisconsin decided to expand into that state.

About Alexander Lumber - John Stewart
About Alexander Lumber - Taylorville IL Circa 1924

The First Alexander Lumber

The first Alexander Lumber yard was opened in 1891, with the aid of two partners, Tom Brittingham and Joe Hixon, and a $5,000 loan from Continental Illinois Bank of Chicago.

But the groundwork was laid in the 1870s, when John Alexander’s sister and brother-in-law arrived from Scotland. As the rest of the brothers and sisters arrived, their destiny became tied to the vast forests and the sawmill industry, and then to lumber retailing. Almost everyone in the family was involved in some way in the lumber industry.

John Alexander’s entrepreneurial spirit and subsequent westward expansion of the railroad led to a series of land leases and “line yards” or small-scale lumberyards along the route. More than 100 of the small yards under his control were in operation by the late 1920’s. They proved a boon to local farmers and spurred the next stage of the company’s growth.

By 1929, John bought out his partners and acquired the Brittingham and Hixon Lumber Co. yards in Wisconsin. Despite the beginning of the Great Depression, John purchased 15 lumber yards in McLean County from his cousin, and also acquired additional yards from another associate.

About Alexander Lumber - John Alexander
About Alexander Lumber - Sullivan IL Circa 1924

The Loss of a Leader

When his father died in 1944, John Alexander, Jr., assumed full responsibility for the company, but he had been named president in 1932. Then, under the day-to-day management of Otto Unteed from 1940 until his retirement in 1966, the company expanded its product lines, built showrooms and continued to serve local contractors and builders.

As the third family member in the line of succession, Walter Alexander had learned the business from his father and grandfather. After military experience and additional on-the-job training working sales counters in various locations, he arrived in Aurora in 1964 as a management understudy. Otto Unteed retired in 1966, and died shortly thereafter.

About Alexander Lumber - John Alexander Junior
About Alexander Lumber - Mendota IL Circa 1924

John Alexander’s grandson, Walter Alexander

At that time, Walter took over supervisory responsibility for the company, and served as president for 45 years until his retirement in 2014, when a search for a new president commenced. Walter passed away shortly after retirement.

About Alexander Lumber - Walter Alexander

A New Era

In 2016, we mark our 125th year in business. At the helm is President and Chief Executive Officer Russ Kathrein, who was named to the position in September 2014.

His management team today consists of Rick Vancil, executive vice president, and three district managers, each responsible for a group of company yards.

There are currently a total of 18 retail yards under the Alexander Lumber umbrella, 15 in Illinois, 2 in Wisconsin and one in Iowa. In addition, the company operates truss plants in Cortland and LeRoy, Ill.,  and a showroom/sales office in Twin Lakes, Wis.

Whether you are a commercial contractor or builder, an architect or a designer, or a homeowner looking for ideas, we hope you pay a visit to our “neighborhood.” We welcome the opportunity to show you around, and we promise to treat you as a member of our family, right from the beginning.

About Alexander Lumber - Storefront
  • “Thank You and your team for your patience, service, product and dedication to our project.” – Chip Bulson // Owner, Golf Rose Properties
  • “Mark Tyson Construction was working on a remodel for a customer. The customer was specifically looking for RTA brand cabinets. We were not able to get that brand of cabinets, but we were able to get Schrock Trademark cabinets. I was able to put together a quote for the customer that matched the same specifications that they were looking for in the RTA cabinets. Between the contractor, the customer & I, we were able to come up with a design that matched what they were looking for and in the price range they desired. – Heather Thomas // Manager, Rushville Location
  • “1st official night at North Lake! Thank you for your help, patience, referrals, & most of all friendship, (love of design, decorating, house stuff, bull dogs, pink, & little piggies! Haha!) I treasure you & am thankful for all the workers that became our friends in the process! I love them all! Thank you!! Thank you!! Thank you!!!   Look forward to the next project!! :0)” – Kim Doyle // Oconomowoc, WI
  • “I've been a long time customer of Alexander Lumber Company. The lumber, service, and advice is top quality.  Also, they will cut and size your lumber.  A service you don't often get at other yards.” – Alan Collubrusco Construction
  • “Thanks for all your help!!! I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy schedule to help me, you were definitely the missing puzzle piece to link everything together!  And if you talk to John, please thank him also, and tell him I still tell stories about the tremendous job he did on the siding job. I'm hard to please, but he exceeded my expectations, and that's extremely rare.” - Greg DeWald // Elkhorn, WI
  • "My husband and I worked with Meaghan Lewis for the remodel our kitchen. She rose above and beyond our expectations. Not only was she knowledgable with kitchen design, but guided us through an array of decisions that came up along the way. Meaghan truly listened to how we used our kitchen and helped to design it to suit our family better than we could ourselves. She never came off as too busy and always gave us her prompt attention. I would highly recommend Meaghan and Alexander Lumber." – Julie Mathers // Oconomowoc, WI
  • "Alexander Lumber made our remodel and update seem effortless!  We were so fortunate that our builder, T & H Builders of Helenville, works with Alexender Lumber and was able to introduce us to Meaghan Lewis, their Kitchen Consultant.  She has been amazing.  Her knowledge and experience allowed us to incorporate all the features we wanted, along with her awesome suggestions for options we never would have known were available! Throughout this whole process, the key factor that made it seem so easy, was the trust and confidence we had working with not only our builder, but with Alexander Lumber.  So a special thank-you to Meaghan!  You ROCK!!!" – Kory Keller // Johnson Creek, WI