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Changing the World one Desk at a Time: 110 Years of High Point Furniture Market

March 22, 2019

You know the feeling… You’re on vacation, maybe at the beach or visiting family. Maybe you’re on a business trip, or visiting a potential college for your kids. Someone asks where you’re from, and you answer, “High Point, N.C.” And you’re met with that classic response, “Oh! High Point, the furniture place!”

Isn’t it incredible that our city, the one we live in every day, is known worldwide for its contributions to the furniture industry? And not just its contributions, but its centrality to the industry. If you’ve lived in High Point very long, you may not even think twice about High Point being the established “Furniture Capital” of the world. But we think that the impact High Point has had on the furniture industry and the impact the industry has had on High Point is something to be proud of.

So as the Furniture Market takes off for its 110th year, join us on a stroll down Market’s memory lane. Whether you’ve recently come to call High Point home or your family has been here for generations, take a look at this timeline of the biggest moments in High Point Furniture Market’s last 130 years of history!

Photography by ZoZo Photography

1889 – It Began with a Desk

Before we can get to the furniture shows, we have to talk about the furniture. Yes, the first noted piece of furniture ever made in High Point was an office desk, made and shipped from High Point Furniture Manufacturing Co. in July 1889. With the railroads for easy transport, an abundance of forest and lumber, and a spirit of entrepreneurial citizens, High Point began to grow in the furniture manufacturing industry.

1900 – Taking the Lead

By the turn-of-the-century, North Carolina had 44 furniture-producing factories, generating more than $1.5 million in furniture each year. High Point had been adding new plants every few months for a decade. With that intentionality, High Point was the lead furniture center for the South.

1905-1909 – Making a Show of it

Furniture salesman D. Ralph Parker forms the High Point Furniture Exposition Company and makes plans to build the Maddox Building for showroom space in 1905. And in 1906, the Furniture Manufacturers’ Exposition Company plans another competing showroom. In 1909, the two join forces to host the first biannual Southern Furniture Market to be held March 1-15. They even had West Coast visitors for the first show!

Photography by ZoZo Photography

1913 – Let’s Do This Every Year

The Southern Furniture Exposition is formed to establish and promote an ongoing, semi-annual market in High Point happening in January and July.

1921 – Building up the Business

The Southern Furniture Exposition building (now IHFC) is built and open for business. It opens its first show on June 20 and hosts 700 buyers from 100 cities across the U.S., displaying 149 exhibitors’ wares, and gains $2.25 million in total sales. The editor of the High Point Enterprise at the time, J. J. Farris makes a commitment to seeing High Point become “THE furniture city without territorial limits.”

Photography by ZoZo Photography

1934 – Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Even for the Depression

Despite the downfall in all economic advances during the country’s Great Depression, the Southern Furniture Exposition Building fills all available space by exhibitors at the Market.

1942 – High Point Market Serves the Nation

While the Market began climbing again after the Great Depression, the Southern Furniture Exposition is put on hold, because High Point was called to serve the country during World War II. Thirteen and one half of the fourteen stories of the Southern Furniture Exposition Building was used to host the Demobilized Personnel Records Branch of the Adjutant General’s Office of the United States Army. One partial Market is held during the war years, but otherwise, the building was devoted to serving the U.S. army and the war efforts.

1950 – Hitting New Highs

The Wrenn Wing of the Southern Furniture Exposition Building is complete (which can still be seen at IHFC today) and the market hosts 6,500 buyers. Informal “in-between” markets are hosted in April and October which we know now as the “Market months”, but the “main markets” continue in January and July.

Photography by ZoZo Photography
Photography by ZoZo Photography

1977 – Furniture Capital Status Unlocked

By 1977, High Point’s bi-annual furniture shows were attracting 35,000 guests, which included 1,000 international guests from 30 different countries. High Point has without a doubt become the furniture capital of the world.

Photography by ZoZo Photography

1989 – The Furniture Building Boom

The Southern Furniture Market gets its new name, the International Home Furnishings Market, and High Point’s largest showroom, the Southern Furniture Exposition Building becomes the International Home Furnishings Center. This sparked a decade long furniture-building boom.

2006 – Furniture Finds its Home

The International Home Furnishings Market officially becomes The High Point Market: The World’s Home for Home Furnishings. As the Market Authority begins to put into place the newest and best services in guest concierge, international travel services, and more, guests from all over the world continue to visit the furniture industry’s forever home: High Point.

2019 – Another Year of High Point’s Legacy

Looking back at 130 years of history, we feel honored to say that High Point has played such a crucial role in filling our homes with furniture. The couches we sit on when we share our hearts with our family. The tables we sit around when we share a meal with our friends. The desks we work at as we work to change our corner of the world. And High Point has changed the way the world designs, manufactures, sells, buys, and loves the furniture in our homes.

Photography by High Point Market Authority

So the next time someone asks you where you’re from, remember to answer proudly, “the Furniture Capital!” Because High Point’s story and its impact on the world is something to celebrate.

Discovering our High Points,

The HP Discovered Team

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