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Grand Rapids in 1856

Scene of early Grand Rapids viewed from the...

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Arthur Kirkpatrick: Grand Rapids School of Furniture Designing

Arthur Kirkpatrick, head of the Grand Rapids School of Furniture Designing, ranks near the head of the list of “Dean of Designers” when the time element is considered. It was 44 years ago, 1893, that Art entered the employ of the Berkey & Gay Furniture Co. as assistant to Adrian Margantyne, for years head designer of B & G. Eleven years earlier young Kirkpatrick had been initiated into the furniture industry as an apprentice carver with the Oriole Cabinet Co., following in the footsteps of his older brothers who had preceded him as furniture mechanics.

Being of a philosophical and romantic nature, Arthur Kirkpatrick studied furniture designing from the standpoint of romance, historical lore, and its relation to human characteristics. Mythology and a delving into the ancient art of symbolism became more than a hobby with Art. He incorporated it into the curriculum of his furniture designing school; a venture commenced in 1900 and carried on uninterruptedly to the present time.

Numerous and famous in the furniture industry are Kirkpatrick’s alumnae. Such notables as Hans Berg of radio fame, Herman DeVries, the modernist, Billy Cleaver of the Imperial Furniture Co., Rockwell of High Point, received inspiration and elementary designing training at the knees of Kirkpatrick.

His present partner, Russell Kirkpatrick (no relation), entered the school as a student, exhibited promise as a designer in his own right, and to cinch the agreement became the senior Kirkpatrick’s son-in-law. Marie and Russell need no introduction to the designing fraternity.

Kindly, patriarchal in appearance, Arthur Kirkpatrick is deeply respected by those with whom he comes in contact. Although well along the highway of life, he enters into various activities with a zest that depreciates even the enthusiasm of his younger colleagues. His Gallic sense of humor finds an outlet in the many events related to the early days in the Grand Rapids furniture world. In an industry replete with fascinating characters, Arthur Kirkpatrick ranks as one of the truly beloved.

Arthur Kirkpatrick died August 1941; Marie, April 1994; J. Russell, June 1974

Excerpted from Fine Furniture, September 1937




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