When you approach Donovan Heat Treating (DHT), at the very end of Tulip Street in northeast Philadelphia, you enter through one of the oversized garage bays big enough to drive a loaded flatbed trailer into. The first thing you notice is the high rooftop with a giant overhead crane capable of lifting 40,000 pounds per load. If you keep going, you’ll see the “small” 18-foot car-bottom furnace and, next to it, a 41-foot Reading box-car furnace equipped with new pulse-fired burners and state-of-the-art control system. 

How this commercial heat treater came to be of service to industry along the I-95 corridor is quite an interesting tale. 

DHT was founded in 1943 by steel salesman Thomas J. Donovan Jr. He started the business – originally knowns as The Donovan Company – in a single row house using several 14- x 18-inch salt pots to treat tool steels. Two years later, Donovan Jr. built a new 5,000-square-foot facility in Philadelphia and installed a 10-foot-long car-bottom furnace. At the time, the business thrived by assisting the war effort.

In 1965, Donovan Jr. passed away and left the business he started to a number of key employees. Donald Uhlenburg purchased the company seven years later, and transformed DHT into what it is today.

Uhlenburg acquired DHT’s current location in north Philadelphia in 1976. As part of the expansion and relocation, he added atmosphere heat-treating equipment.  Just four years later Uhlenburg added more atmosphere heat-treating equipment as well as a custom flame hardening line.

Today, DHT operates four heat-treating furnaces, including a recently modernized 41-foot car-bottom furnace. The company also has an 18-foot car-bottom furnace and an 18-foot temper furnace, both with a capacity of 100,000 pounds per load. DHT offers abrasive blasting in addition to its heat-treating services, which include stress relieving, normalizing, hardening, tempering, solution annealing and aging of specialty stainless steel.

The company serves steel mills and warehouses, forge and foundry shops, metal fabricators, aerospace manufacturers and other industries. DHT facilitates the production of metal for airplanes, ocean vessel, oil and fracking equipment, bridges and military equipment. Approximately 99% of its work originates from outside Philadelphia. DHT’s convenient location –
just off I-95 and I-73 – facilitates large-scale industrial manufacturing for customers across the country and for international clients that transport goods along the I-95 corridor through ports in Philadelphia, Baltimore and New York.

DHT’s story, however, is not complete without discussing the challenges it faced nearly 30 years ago. In October 1988 a five-alarm fire leveled the production facility and adjacent office building. The rebuilding effort required close collaboration between company management, employees, customers and the city of Philadelphia. Hard work from all involved paid off when DHT reopened for business in 1990.

When Donald retired in 2005, his son Jeff Uhlenburg took over as president and CEO. Jeff is actively engaged in the 24-hour, five-day/week operations of the facility. He is also busy building customer relationships, promoting Philadelphia’s manufacturing community and leading discussions on energy policy and other issues critical to heat treating and manufacturing. Jeff served as president of MTI, of which DHT has been a member since 1973, and he is actively involved with the National Association of Manufacturers, where he served on the board of directors from 2012-2014 representing the challenges faced by small and medium-size manufacturers.

Visit www.donovanheattreat.com for more information on Donovan Heat Treating.