Dowell Windows 160 Years of Innovation, Quality and Service

Published on November 6, 2020

While most participants in our industry would be aware that Dowell has been a long-standing brand in the Australian building materials landscape, few may actually appreciate quite how long, given that this year will mark the company’s 160th anniversary.

Established in 1860 by English immigrant and blacksmith, Charles Dowell, the original wrought iron foundry business operated in Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. With an industrious spirit, and with the help of his son Charles II, by the turn of the business was a thriving concern famous for its fine architectural work.

Leveraging strong relationships with Melbourne’s leading architects and suppliers, Charles II’s son Roy entered the business in 1913 as World War I was looming. Changes to fire regulations saw the steel windows Dowell produced being one of the few compliant products spurring its next phase of growth.

By the mid 1920’s Roy had several window patents to his name and in 1928 travelled to the U.S. to research products for multi-storey buildings. Roy adapted what he learned into modern designs which suited the emerging architectural trends which saw them specified in numerous landmark projects.

Despite the widespread effects of the Great Depression, Dowell continued to grow and in 1930 won the contract to supply windows for the new and now heritage listed headquarters of General Motors Holden at Fishermans bend in Melbourne (pictured).

After World War II, Australia’s population boomed and Dowell rode a wave of expansion with new factories and products which included industrial steel windows, pressed metal ceilings and partitioning, lift doors and frames, garage and factory doors.

Aluminium was a post-war wonder material. Affordable, enduring and offering a sleek new look. Demand for aluminium windows took off. Roy Dowell acted quickly to meet the threat to his steel window business, negotiating the rights to use the aluminium designs of the General Bronze Corporation, headquartered in New York.

Dowell became experts in extruded aluminium products adding aluminium windows and doors and curtain-walling for multi-storey buildings to their offer. Roy’s son John also joined the company.

In 1959, the company was floated by the family and became Dowell Australia Limited.

In 1966 it was acquired by a joint venture between Alcoa and Overseas Corporation for an estimated $1.75m or around $23.5m in today’s money. Shortly thereafter, Roy’s son John resigned from the Board, ending over 100 years of family leadership.

Through the balance of the 60’s and 70’s Dowell continued to thrive opening manufacturing facilities around the country with a sizeable commercial façade division which was later sold to Pilkington.

In 1988, the company won an Australian Design Award for its new window design which represented a step change in aluminium window manufacturing technology. That same year, Dowell was acquired by Boral as part of an aggressive acquisition strategy which also saw other large window manufacturers such as Wunderlich, Rob & Brown and Crane Windows acquired.

In the mid 90’s, Dowell developed the first Australian designed thermally broken aluminium suite, aptly named Thermaline. By the turn of the millennium, Boral’s other acquired window brands had fallen away and only the Dowell brand and products survived.

As energy efficiency requirements increased, Dowell continued its trajectory of product development with its more expansive second generation Thermaline range released in 2012.

As Boral’s strategy headed in a different direction, Dowell was purchased by Chaberol Pty Ltd, a Saragossi family company in 2014, and was again set on a course of investment and expansion. Dowell set about the establishment of new state-of-the-art manufacturing facilities in Adelaide, Shepparton and Perth.

Today, Dowell continues to prosper with 20 locations nationally and employing over 700 people.

Current CEO, Jeff Rotin, reflects “when you look at Dowell’s 160-year history, there has always been an eagerness for the new. New products and innovation have always been embraced. It is what has kept Dowell vibrant and alive and is what continues to carry us forward today”

As history plainly demonstrates, despite being Australia’s oldest window manufacturer, Dowell has always been modern.

From everyone at AGWA, we wish Dowell a very happy 160th Birthday!

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