16th Annual Seatweavers' Guild Gathering
16th Annual Gathering
Finnish Center of Saima Park
67 Scott Rd, Fitchburg, MA 01420
July 14-16, 2023
It’s happening!” The 16th Annual Seatweavers’ Guild Gathering will be held in-person in Fitchburg MA. Why Fitchburg? It is near Gardener, MA where our member Chris Pera lives, in the middle of what used to be the “Chair City of the World” and “Furniture Capitol of New England” Gardner was home to twelve furniture companies in the area, which produced in excess of 1.2 million chairs annually and employed a workforce of over 850.
Chris has purchased an old chair factory with future plans of reviving interest in the area. It is a work-in-progress.
“The manufacturing of chairs would become the dominant economy of Gardner as local industrialists became innovators in methods of furniture production. Eventually the community achieved international recognition as a major center for chair fabrication to the point that it became known as the “chair city of the world.”
Credit for the production of the first chairs is given to James Comee who, in 1805, with the use of a foot lathe began the manufacturing of wood and flag seated chairs. Later, Elijah Putnam, who served as an apprentice to Comee, began the construction of open cane seated chairs. At first his method of production was the foot-powered lathe but he eventually adopted wind-power, a horse treadmill and water-power.
By 1878 twelve chair shops had been established in Gardner. One of these shops was begun by the Heywood Brothers in 1826. This was the inception of what would become the Heywood-Wakefield Company, the single largest manufacturer of chairs in the United States. Under the leadership of one of the brothers, Levi Heywood, innovative production methods were introduced such as steam power, the use of band saws and new processes for bending wood. Levi also introduced a whole new line of products. In addition to wooden chairs, rattan and reed chairs and furniture were manufactured, and eventually the company was the first to produce baby carriages made of rattan and reed.
Just some other companies who conducted chair and furniture manufacturing in the city were Conant Ball Company which made cane seat chairs and later bedroom and dining chairs, P. Derby and Company which became the second largest manufacturer of chairs in the United States, C.H. Hartshorn Inc. manufactured hand woven reed chairs and later maple furniture, Gem Industries became well known for its dormitory furniture, Conant Ball Company produced cane seat chairs and reproductions of early American furniture. Also, both S. Bent and Brothers Inc. and Nichols and Stone Company became nationally known for the manufacturing of college and university chairs.“
We thought the entire area would be of interest to our members! We have chosen The Finnish Center in Fitchburg, MA as a perfect place to hold our event. It was recommended by Chris who is a member. We will have our Friday night registration, Saturday workshops, dinner and entertainment, Sunday Tips and Tricks and Business Meeting. We are working on a local museum to hold our Sunday afternoon chair display and demo for the surrounding area.
We will be holding our raffle and swap too. If you have something to donate to the raffle please contact Liz Cotrell
Did you notice we changed the dates? For the first time we are not holding it on our last weekend in July. This is to accommodate members being able to attend the Brimfield Antique Show that begins on July 11. Acres and acres of antiques! You may want to drive something big to bring some treasures home. It is a out an hour away from our event.
Our focus for the weekend will be mainly New England styles of seating. Shaker, Wicker, Hitchcock, NH Porch Rockers and more will be featured Is there something special you would like to learn? Email TSWGmembership@gmail.com and let Rhonda and Sue know what your interest is.
Sue has created a map https://www.seatweaversguild.org/maps-and-lodging that highlights some “places to visit” and pins for the Finnish Center and 2 local hotels. We are arranging a block of rooms at the Doubletree by Hilton in Leominster, Ma, less than 5 miles away from The Finnish Center. Booking details coming soon.
There is a map of local campgrounds. You can always check out Air BnB if that’s your preference.
Check out the map with the link or QR code below to get an idea of the rich history here in New England. We will be adding more as time goes by.
We can’t wait to see you here! Please let us know if you have any questions
The Gathering Committee