A 20-Year Labor of Love

Dallas resident Jim Benge adored his grandfather Jimmie, whom he is named after. Jim remembers when he was a boy of only 8 or 9 years old, easing out on the calm waters of Galveston Bay in the boat his grandfather built with his own hands. “I thought that was so cool,” he recalled. “A lot of the things I do in life today result from the things I learned from my grandfather.”

That’s a bit of an understatement. Today, Jim is basically a household name in the Dallas commercial construction arena. For 37 years, he’s brought to life many of the area’s favorite eateries and retail spaces. He’s proud of the work he has done over the years. But it is another type of construction that truly feeds his soul.


Construction of The Whitmar

Jim has worked with wood since he was a child in his grandfather’s six-car garage / shop that he built behind his house in Houston. Jim started an ambitious project in late 1998 that would ultimately take 20 years to complete; the construction of the SV Whitmar, a turquoise-hulled sailboat reaching 56 feet from stem to stern and just over 14 feet at its beam (the widest part). This beauty will weigh in at north of 20 tons when she is complete.

This blue-water sailboat, named for Jim’s only daughter Whitney and his mother Margie, is tucked neatly (and tightly) into a warehouse in East Dallas. And it is a sight to behold.

Jim has worked on it intently in some seasons and more sparingly in others. For a few years when life and work were extremely demanding, he didn’t work on it at all. But the constant thread pulling him back to the project has been the solace Jim takes in spending time in the workshop, working on the boat he enjoys seeing reach completion. “Working on the boat allows me to be creative and focused. My phone doesn’t even work out in that metal building. It’s truly my solace out there.”

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