It has been said that our society has consumed more natural resources in the past 100 years than in all of man’s previous existence combined. However, for 167 years and through five generations of family ownership, Harden Furniture has upheld a tradition of environmental stewardship. From harvesting trees on its company owned and managed 10,000 acre woodland in Upstate New York, to the maintenance of an on-site Forestry Division and adherence to environmentally sound principles and practices such as use of proven silviculture methods, Harden has been practicing a responsible environmental policy since before the Industrial Revolution and all of its impact on the environment. Not only is the Harden family five generations old, but many Harden employees have five generations of historical roots in the company. Why such loyalty? From the very beginning, founder Charles S. Harden Sr.’s concern for his employees and the village in which they lived was reflected in the construction of churches, a community house, and several homes for the employees – in a very distinct way, a sustainable community before it’s time. That groundbreaking pioneer spirit was evident in the Harden family long before a single piece of furniture
was ever produced.
The company's originator, Charles S. Harden, Sr., was born to a family who moved into the unbroken wilderness of Verona, N.Y. in the 1800s. Charles eventually headed west in search of adventure and gold. Finding none, Harden decided to move his family back to New York, settling in McConnellsville and purchasing a sawmill on Fish Creek. His life experience to that point was one of living off the land exclusively. As a result, Charles Harden had a strong sense of respect for the land, which became part of the Harden family “DNA.”
In the Beginning
The groundbreaking pioneer spirit was evident in the Harden family long before a single piece of furniture was ever produced. The company’s originator, Charles S. Harden, Sr., was born to a family who moved into the unbroken wilderness of Verona, NY in the 1800’s. Though he apprenticed as a brickmaker in neighboring Oneida, Charles decided to follow his adventurous instincts and ran boats on the Erie Canal for two years before moving west to the burgeoning frontier. Settling in Illinois, Charles worked on the Illinois Central Railroad and stayed in the region for ten years. Marriage didn’t appear to slow him down — he traveled overland by wagon train to Pike’s Peak, Colorado in search of gold. Finding none, Harden decided to move his family back to New York State, settling permanently in McConnellsville and purchasing a sawmill on the winding Fish Creek.
The Second Generation
Charles’ son, Frank S., started working in his dad’s sawmill as soon as he was able, making and packing shingles. Always ambitious, Frank read and studied intently outside of regular schooling, with a special interest in the wood arts. At 14, Frank did double-duty as a teacher and sawmill employee, continuing his after hours education in business. Railroads and canals, expanding rapidly during that era, needed bridges. Father and son saw the opportunity, took the challenge and, with their resource of lumber, formed a successful bridge construction company. When the Upstate New York winters suspended construction, they decided there was also a need for quality kitchen chairs, which they could easily produce. Popularity of the Harden company’s early designs soon led to manufacture of parlor chairs, rockers and upholstered pieces, and the Harden family tradition of fine furniture craftsmanship was born.
The Third Generation
Until Frank’s son, Harry, became president in the late 1930s, the company used such lumbers as mahogany, maple and sometimes birch. Surveying the region’s natural timber resources, Harry - long an advocate of the native black cherry hardwood in Harden’s products - initiated its use as the company’s primary material for case goods.
The Fourth Generation
Harry died in 1950, and his brother, Charles H. Harden (also president of Camden Wire) became president while Harry’s son, Dave, was elected treasurer of the firm. In 1955, Dave became president of Harden Furniture and remained in that position until 1992, nurturing the formal 18th century hand-carved line while developing more contemporary and time-popular traditional designs.
The Fifth Generation
Dave’s son, Greg, was elected CEO in 1992, becoming the fifth generation of leadership for the family-owned firm. Greg graduated from Colgate University in 1978, and took a position with the company in the Philadelphia sales division immediately following graduation. Greg has since launched several new collections. His first, European Interpretations, is a unique blend of early European, provincial styling, and was immediately followed by Natural Transitions, a Shaker influenced line of transitional furniture. Greg introduced an international flavor with a distinctive, hand produced imported grouping — Tapestry. For the growing home office market, he has established H.O.M.E. Guide, a versatile modular solution. Greg also instituted the Custom Dining Table Program, which allows a wide range of sizes, edge styles and table bases for a more personalized dining table. The Bristol Channel Collection, added soon after, blends and simplifies European Traditional styles and applies warm colors and textures to add a relaxed, confident feel to the home. Most recently, America's New Mission, a mission- influenced collection and Cabinetmaker's Cherry, inspired by Adirondack and Western styling, expanded the offering to provide a breadth of styles to choose from.
The Family Tradition Continues
As the family legacy endures, Harden Furniture continues to grow and change in order to best serve those customers who desire fine furniture from generation to generation...at just the right value. The story of Harden is much more than the history of a furniture company and a family... it reflects the history of our region and our country, and it has directly shaped the history of a community. From the very beginning, Frank’s concern for his employees and the village in which they lived was reflected in the construction of churches, a community house, and several homes for the employees. This tradition has continued over the years, with the building of a fire department, a golf course, and a new post office completed in 1995
For more comprehensive information on Harden, see "Our Company: Its History and Policies"...