Edward C. Driscoll, 89, a construction manager whose company built the Liberty Place skyscrapers and other Philadelphia landmarks, died Monday, Nov. 18, of complications from a fall in his home.
Over 50 years, Mr. Driscoll grew L.F. Driscoll — the company founded by his father, Leon F. Driscoll — from a local builder into a nationally known firm that transformed the Philadelphia skyline.
His first jobs with the company were as a construction worker, estimator, and project manager. He took over day-to-day operations in 1959 and was named president in 1969, a title he held until 1975. Mr. Driscoll then continued as CEO and board chairman until his retirement in 1994.
For a time, father and son overlapped at the company and developed a complementary dynamic, said Mr. Driscoll’s son David.
“My grandfather was very easygoing,” he said. "My dad was the energy and the hard-charging part.”
A major breakthrough came with the mid-1980s construction of the 61-story One Liberty Place, which ended the “gentleman’s agreement” that prohibited any building taller than the top of the statue of William Penn at City Hall.
The firm also built Two Liberty Place and, following his retirement, the only two buildings in Philadelphia that are taller than One Liberty Place: the Comcast Tower and the Comcast Technology Center.
Frank “Mack” Stulb, L.F. Driscoll’s current president, said Mr. Driscoll was on the vanguard of a change in the industry, from the traditional model of a company that executed all parts of a project to the modern construction manager model, in which the company hires and oversees specialized subcontractors and tradesmen.
“The market grew, the work got bigger, and Ed had the vision that they could be more cost-effective and deliver construction more efficiently by letting the subcontractors that were the experts in those trades do the work,” Stulb said.
As a result of that change in approach, Stulb said, the role of the builder grew in profile, becoming a major partner with the owner and developer rather than simply a firm bidding for work.
Mr. Driscoll was an attentive father, his son said.
“He was always home for dinner and always involved with the family,” David Driscoll said. “He always took my brother and I to school every day.”
Mr. Driscoll spent the better part of a decade as a caretaker for his first wife as she struggled with early-onset dementia.
“It was extraordinary to watch him take that burden on himself and let me and my brother at that point just simply live our own lives,” David Driscoll said. “He was probably the most loyal person I’ve ever met.”
Mr. Driscoll was an avid walker and an Eagles fan, two passions he combined by walking down and up Broad Street from Center City to the stadium complex for home games.
A 1947 graduate of William Penn Charter School and a 1951 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, Mr. Driscoll participated in the Navy Reserve Officers Training Corps. After college, he served three years in the Navy based in San Diego before retiring as a first lieutenant.
He chaired the board of Thomas Jefferson University for six years, and was a member of boards for Wills Eye Hospital, the University of Pennsylvania Center for the Study of Aging, the National Building Museum in Washington, and other organizations.
In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife of 18 years, Joan Barton Driscoll; son Edward C. Jr.; and four grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife, Nancy B. Driscoll, and a daughter, Susan.
A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 7, at Our Mother of Consolation Church, 9 E. Chestnut Hill Ave.