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US Furniture Capital Holds Annual Showcase

  • Ted Landphair

This is a functioning building that emphasizes High Point, North Carolina’s claim to be the “Furniture Capital” of America.

This is a functioning building that emphasizes High Point, North Carolina’s claim to be the “Furniture Capital” of America.

Two North Carolina cities produce more furniture than anywhere else in America

Hundreds of U.S. towns and cities call themselves the capital of something or another. Even the world capital of this or that.

Many of these titles are just for fun - a bit of promotion for the area. Tarpon Springs, Florida, for instance, calls itself the “Sponge Capital of the World.” Reedsburg, Wisconsin, believes it is the “Butter Capital of America.” Pickerington considers itself the “Violet Capital of Ohio.”

And sometimes these so-called capitals have the sales receipts to prove their boasts.

High Point, North Carolina, for instance, refers to itself as “The Furniture Capital of the United States.” And to emphasize the point, it painted a downtown building to look like a chest of drawers.

Just down the road, High Point’s sister city, Thomasville, also makes a lot of furniture. Since it calls itself “Chair City,” there’s a chair the size of a small barn sitting right in the middle of the Thomasville town square. James Harvey's "The Chair," based on a design of an actual chair by Duncan Phyfe in "Chair City" Thomasville, North Carolina.

James Harvey's "The Chair," based on a design of an actual chair by Duncan Phyfe in "Chair City" Thomasville, North Carolina.

Together, these two small cities really do produce more furniture than any other place in America.

This happened because, over the past century, a lot of factories moved from northern states to North Carolina for its 11 different species of wood, its warmer weather, its direct rail lines to big East Coast markets, and its non-union labor pool.

High Point is holding its annual “furniture market” this month. It’s an event in which manufacturers display their latest designs in 51 showrooms, and buyers from most states and as many as 100 countries show up and walk the aisles.

Down the street, at the High Point Museum, they can watch as skilled carpenters, upholsterers, and other craftspeople show how some of the nation’s finest furniture is assembled - from the cutting of trees to the making of frames, to the gluing and application of veneers and stains and polishes.

After all that, perhaps the visitors can drive over to Thomasville and check out the workmanship on a chair. A really, really big chair.

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