Thursday, May 7, 2015

We used to make things in this country. #194: Kaufman Furniture, Collingwood, Ontario

Canadian Homes, June 1961

The Kaufman story begins with the Imperial Steel and Wire Company of Collingwood, a large manufacturer of nails and fasteners.  A fire partially destroyed their factory in 1919, but the company never recovered and closed in 1925.  During World War II, the factory became home to the Clyde Aircraft Manufacturing Company, which employed 500 workers to make parts for the Mosquito bomber.  At the conclusion of the war, the Ontario government collaborated with the British Board of Trade to establish Globe Plywood Limited.  Under the control of A.R. Kaufman, this company made pre-fab plywood furniture, shipped to Britain to help replace furniture lost during the German bombing.  When this contract was completed in 1948, the company became Kaufman Furniture, turning to the North American market.  James Leithead designed a distinctly Canadian-style of furniture, beginning with "The Talisman" line.   Originally, birch wood was the material of choice, but this was succeeded by the better-selling walnut.  By the late 1940's, almost 200 people were employed in the factory which was run by William Kaufman, a third-generation businessman who also served as a flying Instructor during World War II. Kaufman Furniture was only part of the empire, which included the Kaufman Rubber Company (later renamed Kaufman Footwear).  The factory's enormous smokestack was a Collingwood landmark.

http://www.uer.ca/locations/show.asp?locid=23572
In 1979 several companies were amalgamated to form William H. Kaufman Inc. In 2000, the plant was sold to Krug Inc., a Kitchener-based manufacturer of office furniture.  Krug closed it down in 2005, with the loss of 130 jobs.  The plant was subsequently demolished.  You can see photos of the demolition at The Last Days of Kaufman Furniture.

http://www.collingwoodnow.com/news_08/200508_kaufman.htm
As a curious aside, the Mariner Motel in Collingwood was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Kaufman family in the 1950s.
 Update. (apparently not so, see comment below)

19 comments:

Unknown said...

Both the extension to the Kaufman Furniture Factory and the Mariner Motel were designed by local Collingwood architect Bill Carswell who was influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright.

Nancy Frey said...

In 1975 I worked at Kaufman Furniture in Collingwood as secretary to the President Gerry Cockerill. I'm really sorry to see the demise of the company and the building.

Nancy Frey formerly Mueller
Windsor, ON

Mister G said...

Thank you for your comment. If you have pictures or stories you'd like to share I'll add them to the post!

Anthony Santoro said...

Hello! Thank you for the very interesting post!

I was recently gifted a beautiful dining set made by Kaufmann Furniture Ltd. and am hoping to find out more information. Do you happen to know if there is a database of all furniture made by this company? It would be helpful to find any photos of the original sets to see if the fabric on these seats is original to manufacturing. While it is somewhat marked, I think I can clean it and have them looking in their prime once again.

For your other guest, Nancy, do you happen to know anything about anything like this either?

Nancy Frey said...

Anthony, when I worked there, Kaufman (one n) had two distinct lines. One was very traditional furniture and the other was upholstered furniture which was not made in Collingwood. But I can tell you from memory that most of the fabrics used for both diningroom furniture and upholstery were from Kobe Fabrics and they are still around. The fabric was top quality and should clean very well. You might find photos of the furniture on sites like Kijiji. And there is a book on Amazon which has photos of The Kaufman Collection but you have to be careful as there is another company today called Kaufman Fine Furniture run by a Justin Kaufman and I don't think it has anything to do with Kaufman of Collingwood.

Mister G said...

Thanks for the information and interest!

Anonymous said...

So, so it's an urban legend then?

Mister G said...

Sadly, it appears so.

Cy said...

I just purchased the most gorgeous Kaufman bar cabinet! It is 78 inches tall, about three feet wide and the upper portion is arched with two doors. Inside has a mirror and glass shelf with light. So thrilled to have a beautiful piece of Canadian furniture. I appreciated this article very much,

Mister G said...

If you have some images I'll add them to the post!

Unknown said...

Do you happen to know the name of this book that is on amazon?
Trying to find some information of a piece I have from the collection

Thanks!

Nancy Frey said...

Just Google for it -- but make sure its the one about the Canadian company as there are others about American companies called Kaufman.

Unknown said...

I understand the Kaufman home in Waterloo is purchased and being restored by the developer. I have a dining cabinet I'd love to see in that house. I cant google or find collectors of this furniture to sell to. Any advice?

Mister G said...

It would be nice if there was a collection of the furniture in the house, have you tried to get a contact through the developer?

Unknown said...

I stumbled across this post looking for information on a Kaufman of Collingwood sofa I have. I would love to know more about it (manufacture date, original cost etc) I could send a photo as well, if you can tell me where to send it.

Mister G said...

I don't know if I can help, but send to gerald@vanwyngaarden.ca I can at least add it to the post. Thanks!

Unknown said...

My neighbour when I was growing up,Helmut Pop, worked at Kaufman . I thought he was an upholster. and I bought a roll of fabric there before they closed. just curious about the upholstered furniture not being made in Collingwood

Nancy Frey said...

The upholstery division, to the best of my knowledge, was a company purchased by the Kaufman family sometime in the 60's. Before that, they only made wooden furniture. They still used upholstery on dining room chairs. The upholstered furniture was made wherever the factory was that they purchased. I seem to think it was in the Toronto area, but my memory isn't great theae days.

Mary Kenny said...

I happened across your blog earlier today, while looking for info on my Kaufman Bar cabinet. Thank you for having this presence.

STORY:
This story is about Bar. Bar is special among special …. unique ….

Bar was purchased by my parents in early 1970’s from Kaufman in Collingwood, along with several other living room pieces. (These are stories for another day.)
“Wow” describes mom’s and dad’s Kaufman living room that retained its stunning appearance for decades.

Having been used, admired and loved and the centre of (entertaining) attention in my family for over 50 years, including debuting on Zoom with all the family on Christmas Day 2020, Bar needs a future full of renewed purpose ….

You see, Bar was the only piece of furniture my son wanted from his nana's and papa's collection. Tommy chose Bar and couldn’t wait for the day he would take it home with him. His nana even put a special note inside Bar, for him.

Tommy moved west from Ontario, for school and work.

NEXT GENERATION DIED:
Sadly, TOMMY DIED at age 26, after Bar was transported from London to Vancouver for him, but before he could claim it.

TOUCH THE FUTURE:
Now Bar is in need of a new and different meaningful life of service.
I would love to help Bar join other timeless Kaufman pieces in the refurbishing project, I read about in this blog. Is this a possibility? Or do you have other suggestions?

I would be happy to send pics, contact people, etc., whatever you suggest.

Bar would be a great asset alongside timeless Kaufman creations - which collectively would serve as a link to a proud era, that will always remind us just how beautifully Kaufman’s designs were brought to life, by masterful craftsmen.

The true essence of Kaufman’s creations will never die, as long as we remember, collect together the interesting stories, and display pieces with their stories.

This lovely refurbished home could become more than a restoration. By touching its past, it’s Kaufman legend, It could become a point of transformation to a future of wonderfully high standards of local excellence in all realms.

This restoration could be the beginning of a living history, of the life and times of Kaufman, Collingwood, as woven piece-by-piece by its creations of the past.

Who knows what will come back? And how it could TOUCH THE FUTURE ….

THANK YOU FOR BEING CONSIDERATE AND WRITING THIS BLOG
Thank you for being forward-thinking and making this blog happen. Thank you for listening to me, now. Thank you, in advance, for any help you might be moved to provide to me.

————
BAR:
Dimensions: 30" wide X 18" deep X 36" high.
Has doors that meet in the middle of the front and swing open perfect amount.
The back of the unit is fully finished.
Units site on casters, as it did 50 years ago.
The top folds back flat and has witnessed countless parties over the years.
Inside is perfect - drawer w/ 4 dividers at the top, a11"deep shelf underneath it.
Bar space, more than adequate.
Colour is light walnut (or pecan?).


mary@marylkenny.com
Author of the upcoming book
“Running With Spirit”