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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

Phoenix Furniture Co. - Baxter, 1891

In 1868 William A. Berkey was made assignee for Atkins & Soule, cabinetmakers. In 1870 the premises were purchased by parties who organized the Phoenix Manufacturing Company, with a capital limited to $100,000 - President, William A. Berkey; Treasurer, Nelson M. Northrop: Secretary, Frank McWhorter. For several years they did business in a small way at the corner of Ottawa and Fairbanks streets, in the manufacture of miscellaneous furniture.

Mr. Berkey retired from the firm of Berkey Bros. & Gay, January 1, 1873, and devoted his energies to building up the new company which had been reorganized as the Phoenix Furniture Company, with a capital stock of $200,000, to be increased as circumstances should render advisable. The officers were: William A. Berkey, President; William A. Howard, Vice President; L. D. Norris, Secretary, W. D. Talford, Treasurer.

In the fall of 1872 ground had been broken for the erection of a factory on a tract of about eight acres, at the corner of West Fulton and Summer streets, and the company in 1873 moved into the new quarters, which, with additions made in 1875, 1880, and 1883, cover over 700,000 square feet of floor space. The main buildings are of brick, with lumber sheds, freight houses and yards attached, filled with all kinds of lumber needed in their work.

The company has prospered until from 100 workmen, they have increased their force to an average of 550 men, with a monthly payroll of near $18,000. Their products, consisting of the finest grades of chamber suits, folding beds, book cases, dining tables and heavy office furniture, go to every portion of the country and aggregate about $700,000 annually. In connection with their factory they have a large show room where an elaborate display of their goods is made. Present paid up capital, $500,000.

Officers (1889): President, James W. Converse; Vice President, Frank Smith; Secretary and Treasurer, R. W. Merrill; Designer, David W. Kendall; Directors, J. W. Converse, Conrad G. Swensberg, D. W. Talford, R. W. Merrill, Adolph Leitelt, Frank Smith, David W. Kendall.

This mammoth institution has had a very successful career. Commenced shortly before the financial crisis of 1874, its managers weathered the storm, and now it stands among the first in the city if not in the country.

It has also a suit of salesrooms in the Blodgett block, corner of Louis and Ottawa streets, as handsome and capacious as any in the land.

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