Expo Building Helped Showcase Booming Furniture Industry

The Furniture Mart Building in Jamestown represents the legacy of the city as a furniture manufacturing center. After opening in 1917 at the corner of West Second and Washington streets, the building was used to display furniture for important exhibitions. Photo by the Fenton Historical Center

The Jamestown Furniture Mart Building has captured the city’s attention in recent weeks, as contractors worked to secure bricks on its outer layer that had presented a public safety concern.

The building represents an important part of the city’s history, especially in manufacturing.

From the early 1800s until the mid-1900s, the city was well-known for its furniture industry. The city even earned the nickname “The Furniture Capital of the World,” as a result of its booming furniture manufacturing industry.

As the city’s reputation for producing quality furniture increased, the Furniture Mart Building was designed in the early 1900s. The property was constructed to showcase the region’s furniture and hold expositions.

According to information included in “The Jamestown Furniture Industry,” a book by Clarence Carlson, construction on the corner of West Second and Washington streets began in 1916 and was completed in 1917.

The building was designed to be fireproof, with an outward layer of brick and an inward structure composed of steel.

The Furniture Mart Building, also known as the Furniture Exposition Building, was regularly used by manufacturers to show off its new furniture.

While manufacturers initially enjoyed early success as a result of the building’s popularity, a lack of growth and increased competition in different regions eventually caused Jamestown to lose its dominance in the furniture business, Carlson wrote in his book.

In the years following the decline of the city’s furniture manufacturing business, the building has been used for a variety of purposes. Today, it is primarily used for commercial office space.

Crystal Surdyk, city director of development, noted the Furniture Mart Building’s important place in the city’s history.

“Jamestown was once the furniture capital of the world,” she said. “To build a whole building in the center of town that was dedicated to displaying the furniture that was manufactured here, I think that was kind of a huge thing.”

The structure also helped put the city on the map. “It was really a national marketplace,” Surdyk said.

Recently, part of Second Street had to be closed as a result of bricks falling from the top of the building. R.E. Kelley, a contractor from Buffalo, worked to secure bricks at the top of the building and removed any loose bricks. Netting was also installed to prevent any additional bricks from falling to the ground.

City officials then reopened West Second Street to the public.

“There are plans in place and still really being developed to redevelop the building itself,” Surdyk said. “I’m sure that this brick stabilization and restoration will end up becoming part of that overall project.”

She added, “There are still plans that are taking shape and hopefully soon we’ll have some more information about what the future of the Furniture Mart is going to be.”


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