High Point Market HistoryColby Morrell
High Point, North Carolina’s furniture roots date back to 1889 when the first furniture factory opened in the small city. Since then it has become a global hub for the furniture and design industry making the city home to the world’s largest furniture market. Twice a year, over 80,000 people descend upon this sleepy town for High Point Market, but how did it all begin? And why here of all places?
The attempt to determine how it all started is confusing, as there are so many versions of how things began. Early efforts to organize the furniture market involve lots of people and lots of stories. By 1900 High Point was the leading furniture manufacturer in the south. This can be credited to advancement in railroads, cheap labor, and a rich supply of timber in the area. Simply put, the manufacturers in the area decided to create an exposition to compete with markets in New York and Chicago. These first attempts weren’t that successful, but they were dedicated to their mission.
Fast forward a decade and North Carolina was then home to over 250 furniture manufacturers. This is when they decided to start building a large showroom space to attract people from around the globe. In 1913, 100 manufacturers displayed wares to 1,000 dealers at the first Southern Exposition, an event that, for the first time, was compared to the great centers of the North.
The city’s market mission had its setbacks during the depression and World War II when many of the buildings were reconfigured to assist in the war effort. After the war a boom in housing had begun, and by 1955, almost one-half of all wooden bedroom furniture made in the U.S. was produced within a 125-mile radius of High Point
The market was still a rough trip in those days and didn’t become a big deal until the 1960’s. At this point many showroom spaces had opened up all around the city and the global furniture industry starting taking notice. Today, the city holds 11.5 million square feet of showroom space, attracting the biggest and most sought after companies in the industry.