Built to Last
J.R. Maxwell Builders creates commercial and residential spaces designed to stand the test of time
by Leigh Stuart

American music icon David Allan Coe has been quoted as saying that it’s not the beauty of a building that a person should look at, as it is the foundation that will stand the test of time. Though he likely meant this to serve as a metaphor, the sentiment rings true on its own—a building is only as good as its construction, so it is important for that construction to be done right.

The father-and-son team of Jay and James Maxwell believes the same thing, and the Maxwells have been showing it with the quality of work their company, J.R. Maxwell Builders Inc., has been doing for more than 35 years.

James, who graduated from Drexel University with dual degrees in construction management and operations management, has been working with his dad “since I could carry a 2-by-4,” he says. “Me and my dad work together as equal partners. We’ve always worked closely together. We’re best friends and we’re great partners.”

James, who is himself a father of five, says, “I get a lot of satisfaction in helping people.”

James and his father maintain separate schedules, but the two coordinate with one another. “I obviously know everything that’s going on at all my jobs,” James says. “We have a large number of employees for a company of our size. The main reason is we’re looking for quality control. We always have one of our guys on site at all times to answer questions or see if the client needs anything, or they can always get ahold of me.”

J.R. Maxwell Builders has, since its inception, built up a reputation in the greater Philadelphia area for its work on custom-built homes, commercial spaces, and new and historic renovations.

Historic renovations are a particular specialty of J.R. Maxwell Builders. The company has received a great deal of recognition over the years from peers and other professionals in the renovation and construction fields. For example, the company won a 2013 Pennsylvania Historic Preservation Award, an honor recognizing contributions to preserving the state’s heritage, for its work on the Bucks County Playhouse, as well as a 2014 Historic Preservation Award in Lambertville, N.J., for its work on the historic building now known as Lambertville Hall. James says he expects the updates to the hall, which required bringing in a specialist to fully revamp and Thermopane the original stained glass from 1868, to last another 175 or 200 years.

The company also applies its expertise in historic renovations to residential properties. One current J.R. Maxwell Builders project is the renovation of the oldest house in New Hope. This is no small task, as the building has been in disrepair for decades. For this project, James’ team has to gut the home entirely and restore everything from crumbling beams to a roof that has been leaking for 20 years, all with the eventual goal of adding modern structure and convenience while restoring the historic splendor such an aged home has to offer.

“The idea with historic renovations is that when you’re working on an old section of a house, you want to keep everything historically accurate, but with the additions, you want to bring in new flair,” James explains. “History isn’t just the ‘old stuff’; it’s the evolution of a building.”

One of the company’s most noteworthy features ties together J.R. Maxwell Builders’ expertise in historic renovations and the distinctive work produced by its affiliated mill shop, Mink Run Millwork.

Pete Stroman, who has overseen the Mink Run team for the past eight years, has worked with J.R. Maxwell Builders since he was 16 years old. Now 32, Stroman, who describes Mink Run as “a New Yankee Workshop” type of place, takes the helm on project aspects from bidding to ordering materials to finishing in his role as shop manager.

The shop has become so successful over the years that Mink Run is now branching out to offer its services to companies other than J.R. Maxwell. This will allow a whole new market to obtain the fine woodworking, custom cabinets and one-of-a-kind furniture that comes out of the shop.

Of his staff of craftsmen, Stroman says one thing they all have in common is a genuine love for, and dedication to, the artistry of woodworking. “We’ve hired guys who are really into this,” Stroman says. “We want guys that really care.”

Stroman notes that whether a customer needs trim work or woodworking throughout their home, his staff can do it all. Mink Run even employs a full-time finisher, meaning that detailed work for this final step can be done on the premises.

“Jay and James are relentless with service,” says Stroman. “They will not stop until a customer is happy.”  

“We produce the highest-quality project for the budget given,” adds James. “We use the best materials, and we won’t decrease quality. We’re building for the ages, not for the short term. Most of the people we deal with are people who are staying in these houses long term. They’re looking for the home of their dreams, and that’s what we want to give them.”

J.R. Maxwell Builders Inc.
P.O. Box 1327
Doylestown PA 18901

Photograph by Allure West Studios