McClure: Rooted in Land Surveying

by | Nov 14, 2022 | News, Survey, Thought Leadership

McClure was founded by Jon McClure in 1956, but more than half a century earlier, Dan’l Tuttle (not a typo – his name was spelled that way) started a survey company in downtown Kansas City in 1885. Kansas City was only about 20 years old at that time but a boom town needing surveyors. The company, Tuttle, Ayers, and Woodward (TAW), was eventually sold to Colonel William Spann in 1933. Colonel Spann was instrumental in starting the Missouri Society of Professional Surveyors. He was responsible for creating the legislature and guiding it through the state government to authorize the creation of the association. Spann was also responsible for establishing the rules for governing the association, licensure and maintaining a standard of how to conduct surveys in Missouri. The colonel’s son, William Spann Jr. took over the company after his father passed. He sold the business to Shafer, Kline, and Warren (SKW) in 1977 and continued as a partner until his death in the ‘90s. SKW operated the Missouri office as TAW until the ‘90s.

McClure acquired the Kansas City-based civil engineering and surveying firm SKW in 2018. Today, McClure has access to historical land surveys dating back to 1885. With the ever-expanding and changing landscape in the Kansas City area the accessibility of this information puts McClure in a unique position. TAW had a drafting table with drafters at the courthouse tracing every plat being filed by others. That was the only way to obtain copies at that time. Some of these records are better than the originals. But more importantly, most of TAW’s, now McClure’s, records are the originals.

Steve Whitaker, Land Surveyor for McClure since 1984, says “Not long ago our survey records were the only way I could prove how and why the south line of 12th Street was established where it is. This was regarding an ALTA survey I prepared for the famous Muehlebach Hotel. Another surveyor was hired to do a final plat on the same property, and he disagreed with my line by a few feet. He had a logical argument about what he did. I was confused by what he reported because I had just been following a string of TAW surveys spanning over many years without really searching out why the line was where we placed it. The answer was in a set of field notes from 1902 that confirmed our survey. The surveyor preparing the final plat had to change his survey. Although the surveyor preparing the final plat used what appeared to be sound logic to prepare his survey, he was not following in the footsteps of the original surveyor. He couldn’t argue for his survey because he was not following the most fundamental part of survey which is to follow the footsteps of the original survey. And that is why records are so important to a surveyor. A surveyor needs records in the same way that a title company does to know the description and the encumbrances on the property you own.”

In an industry that is built on history and mentorship, there is much that surveyors can reference, not only with the wealth of knowledge in surveying but also with the historical documents that have been recorded over time and passed down. Today, McClure’s survey team has 159 years of combined field survey experience. One is a fourth-generation surveyor. ” I cannot drive far in any direction in Kansas City until I see a place where I was involved in the survey. Some of the projects I was involved in have been built and torn down and replaced already,” said Whitaker.

“The future of survey at McClure will be something to behold,” said Josh Doughan, Vice President of Survey. “We continue to push technology and the ingenuity of our team to their limits and challenge what is possible.  A survey crew is no longer made up of 2-3 people turning angles and staking hundreds of points, but rather is an integral component of the project delivery team that uses technology and state-of-the-art tools to get the job done.  I see the evolution of our team into the next five to ten years and beyond as something to be excited for as we continue to look for new ways to deliver projects for our clients and make lives better.”

About McClure

Founded in 1956, McClure has grown to a firm of over 250 professionals in thirteen offices. With a vision of making lives better, McClure brings engineering expertise and a collaborative approach to identify the best strategies and solutions to bring our client’s vision to life. McClure’s area of expertise is in guiding its clients on making long-term capital investments in the areas of aviation, bridge, community development, construction observation, development, environmental, geotechnical, GIS, landscape architecture, MEP, structural, survey, traffic, transportation, wastewater, and water.