Featured Story

A West Virginia Engineering Legacy

From the September/October 2019 edition of PE magazine.

An NSPE member reflects on the 117-year legacy of his family’s role in progressing its community.

In 1902, brothers Carl L. Hornor and Paul S. Hornor opened Hornor Brothers Engineers, centered in Clarksburg, West Virginia, a growing city fueled by glass and coal production. The firm was instrumental to the development of the city and north-central region of the state, providing surveying and engineering services for railroad, coal mine, and municipal projects.

Hornor Brothers Engineers continues to make its mark in Clarksburg and across the region. NSPE member Paul A. Hornor, III, P.E., P.S., and his brother John Hornor, P.S., represent the fourth generation of the family to lead the 117-year-old firm—the oldest in West Virginia. They are the great grandsons of Paul S. Hornor.

Today, HBE focuses on civil engineering, site design and development, municipal, water utilities, and gas well site development projects. The firm’s home has been in the same building since the late 1930s, in the heart of Clarksburg, near the Harrison County Courthouse and city hall.

Building Up a Community


Since its founding in 1902, Hornor Brothers Engineers has made its mark on Clarksburg and the local region. What was life like in Clarksburg at the time? In 1900, the first sewer lines were put into the city and in 1902 the first automobile made its way into the area. Access to natural resources and railroad facilities would attract industry and manufacturing to boost the city’s economic development (according to the city’s Wikipedia page). Soon there would be a thriving city with eight banks, three hospitals, and fine hotels. By 1929, the city had a population of more than 35,000.

The siblings contributed to the growth of the region with surveying and engineering projects involving railroads and coal mines and the development of residential districts.

The Hornor brother’s dedication to professionalism went beyond just the day-to-day engineering design projects. Carl Hornor was involved in the early days of NSPE and served as the West Virginia Society of Professional Engineers’ third president in 1934. His West Virginia licensure registration number was 43. Current HBE president Paul A. Hornor, III (who goes by the name “Trey”) holds West Virginia licensure registration number 10,281.

A Family Legacy

The significance of the firm to his family and the Clarksburg community was ingrained in Trey Hornor at an early age. His grandfather Paul Allen Hornor took over as the firm’s leader in 1938 until he retired in the early 1980s. His father (Paul A. Hornor Jr.) started his career at the company in 1963, when Hornor was a three-year-old, and became president in 1983. He recalls joining his father in the field on firm projects as a teenager, which helped him to appreciate design from a construction standpoint.

However, when Trey Hornor graduated from West Virginia University with a civil engineering degree in 1982, he wasn’t necessarily looking to start his career in the family business. “My thinking was that I would get a degree in a good field of study and see where that took me.”

The early years of Trey Hornor’s career took him around the world after accepting a position with the Chicago Bridge and Iron Company, a large construction and engineering company with projects in the US and internationally. For the first six months with the firm, he worked in the design department soon followed by two years on construction in South Africa. The last six months of his time with the company was spent in Houston. “I [realized] that with a big company it was going to be a process of moving around a lot as you progressed up through that company. After bouncing around for three years, I decided that this wasn’t what I wanted to do,” he says.

Back at home in Clarksburg, work was flowing for Hornor Brothers Engineers. In 1985, Paul A. Hornor Jr. reached out to his son. “He contacted me and said that if you ever thought that you wanted to come here and work, now would be a good time to consider doing that. And 34 years later, I’m still here,” he recalls with a laugh.

Trey Hornor worked his way up becoming principal and vice-president in 1989 and took over as president in 2001, following his father’s retirement.

Since the 1990s, the firm has concentrated on projects involving municipalities, water associations, and residential site development. The firm’s clients include the cities of Clarksburg, Bridgeport, Morgantown, West Union and Salem, the Adrian Public Service District, the United Hospital Center, and the North Central West Virginia Airport. Currently, this work is done with a staff of 10 employees, which includes two PEs and one EIT.

The United Hospital Center project in Bridgeport is an HBE staff favorite. The project featured a variety of civil design work, including large-scale earthwork and embankments, roads, parking areas, utilities, drainage, and retaining walls. “Most of these features are visible to all who visit the hospital campus,” says Trey Hornor. “We’re also pleased to have been a part of a project which so greatly benefits the health and well-being of the residents of north-central West Virginia.”

Read the entire article online.