LANDMARK BUILDINGS OF HERKIMER COUNTY
STANDARD FURNITURE COMPANY
Site visitors have asked about the history of the Standard Furniture Company after purchasing a piece of their old furniture from an
antique shop or at auction. This was a large, successful company and their furniture turns up all over the U.S. The basic information below was obtained from an old pamphlet about Standard Furniture, various newspaper clippings and some of what I know from living in close proximity to the area. Other information about the company's history can be obtained from the Herkimer County Historical Society.
Standard Furniture Company was in business for many years, having been founded in 1886 by Michael Foley, William Horrocks and Frank F. Lathrop. It was once the largest manufacturer of office desks and wooden furniture in the United States. Herkimer was known as the "desk capital of the world."
The business began in a small two-story building and expanded into a large complex of buildings. In 1895 European subsidiaries were formed to meet the demand for Standard Desks. For many years sub-assemblies of the Standard products were sent abroad and assembled in London, Paris and Berlin. The prime people involved at this time were: Michael Foley, Frank F. Lathrop, John V. Hemstreet and Charles S. Brewer. These foreign branches continued operating until 1913, when they were discontinued. The craftsmanship involved was handed down from father to son and to grandson, etc. over the years.
The original company with its fine products quickly expanded after developing a trade desk of its own design. Also designed and produced were pedestals and cabinet work for the Remington typewriter company, located in Ilion. With the ingenuity of workmen and foremen, combined with updated machinery, their craftsmanship became well known throughout the world. It is noted in the past, the United Nations Conference delegates meeting in San Francisco sat before Standard Desks. Orders steadily increased from foreign embassies, government, national institutions, and many businesses and companies. Standard became famous for their roll-top desk, library cabinets, custom made chairs, along with the fine design of tables ranging in various sizes and lengths.
During WWII thousands of desks were produced for the government through winning bids. Bids were also awarded for office equipment including many styles of bookcases, tables, chairs, and small cabinets. All furniture was hand-rubbed by experienced craftsman during various processes with the finished product being top of the line. Business was booming and extra people were added to the workforce during the war years. At that time, Standard was an owner of one of the largest saw mills in the northeast. They stocked and operated their own lumber yard at the back of the buildings, so the company continually had plentiful supplies of raw materials. Thus, Standard Furniture was known for "From Forest to Furniture."
This thriving business comprised a complex of red brick buildings extending from King Street to S. Washington Street with land extending to Route 5. Having the railroad spurs up to the loading dock, convenient loading docks for tractor trailers, easy access to main highways and Thruway, etc., it is no wonder Standard Furniture was thriving in the Village of Herkimer.
In 1964 the Standard Furniture Company was still a thriving furniture plant., and chief engineer George Hoellrich was proud to announce a table 26 1/2 feet long and eight feet wide at the center in a gorgeous sunburst pattern designed from black walnut veneer for the top. The table had to be shipped in seven large crates with a total of 2,440 pounds with its destination being the Teamster's Union office in San Francisco. The finished product was overseen by Pat Moschetto, the finishing room foreman.
Similarly to many other companies, business eventually declined to a point that the factory was closed in 1978. Most of the original building was torn down to make way for the K-mart Store. One remaining building once occupied by the Standard Furniture Co., bordering King Street on the east and K-mart Store on the west, is now occupied by two separate businesses - one being Peter Smith Trucking and the other Jay Smith's auto dismantling and parts store. A portion of the old land where some of the railroad tracks were comprises the Ponderosa Restaurant, bordering Route 5 (State Street) and King Street.
When Standard Furniture went out of business in 1978, many of the employees found similar work nearby with such companies as Hale Desk Co. and Library Bureau. The Library Bureau later fell on hard times due to stiff competition of other manufacturers and higher cost of running the business, and eventually was forced to close its doors. Wal-Mart now occupies the land of the former Library Bureau. In 2001, Hale Mfg. still thrives at their location on W. German Street, diagonally across from Herkimer Jr./Sr. High School, with Valley Health Services to their left, and the roadway leading to Herkimer County Community College on the right.
Copyright © 2000 Betsy Voorhees
All Rights Reserved.