Furniture Corner

The Schmitt Furniture Company is one of New Albany’s oldest businesses. Founded in 1936 by Charles Schmitt, Sr., the company opened for business in a store at State and Market Streets. In 1944, it moved to its present location at “furniture corner,” the name long associated with the intersection of State and Main streets. Furniture manufacturing thrived in early New Albany. Plentiful supplies of hardwood timber and strong demand for cabinetry and furniture from shipbuilders made a potent combination. New Albany soon became recognized as a regional center of furniture manufacturing. For nearly a century, the intersection of State and Main has been associated with furniture retailing. Several different merchants have occupied stores at furniture corner or close by.

In the 1850s, John Shrader operated a furniture factory, warehouse, and retail store on Main Street between First and State streets (now the location of the YMCA). In 1857, New Albany manufacturers produced an estimated $60,000 in furniture. When New Albany’s shipyards ended production after the Civil War, furniture makers began producing for the retail market. Many did well. By the early twentieth century, Shrader alone produced furniture valued at between $65,000 and $75,000 annually.

When W. S. Culbertson built his 26-room mansion on Main Street in 1869, he purchased furniture from John Shrader and two other dealers, David R. Scott and George Kraft. Shrader and Sons advertised the “very finest furniture” at “lower rates that any house in this vicinity can afford.” Their “mammoth furniture wareroom” occupied two floors. “Bedsteads, bureaus, wardrobes, tables, chairs “and other articles of chamber and parlor furniture” filled the ground level; dining room, bed room, and kitchen furniture were displayed on the second floor. A factory owned by Henry Klerner ranked among the other major producers of the era. Located at the corner of Fifth and Oak streets, it manufactured a diversified line of consumer furnishings.

The Schmitt Company is among the oldest retail firms in New Albany. In 1959, it expanded its showroom by adding a special department for early American furniture and an exchange store for used and discounted items. In 1976 it added additional floor space to accommodate a greater range of goods. Reasonable prices, a large selection, and a strong commitment to New Albany are core principles. In 2011, the Schmitt Company celebrated its 75th Anniversary at the corner of State and Main. Smith’s Furniture was its main downtown competitor until 2005, when Smith’s moved to a shopping center off Veterans Parkway in Clarksville after thirty-six years at the corner of State and Market streets.

Images

Schmitt Furniture Sign

Schmitt Furniture Sign

The Schmitt Furniture Company is one of the oldest businesses in New Albany. Image courtesy of Daniel Vivian | Source: Daniel Vivian | Creator: Daniel Vivian View File Details Page

Furniture Corner

Furniture Corner

Schmitt's continues to bill its location as "furniture corner" after more than 80 years in business at 101 East Main Street. Image courtesy of Daniel Vivian. | Source: Daniel Vivian | Creator: Daniel Vivian View File Details Page

Mural

Mural

A mural overlooking the parking lot behind the Schmitt store celebrates the history of "furniture corner." Image courtesy of Daniel Vivian. | Source: Daniel Vivian | Creator: Daniel Vivian View File Details Page

Schmitt Furniture Company Store

Schmitt Furniture Company Store

The Schmitt family moved its business to 101 East Main Street in 1944. Image courtesy of Mary K. Marlatt. | Source: Mary K. Marlatt | Creator: Mary K. Marlatt View File Details Page

The Exchange Restaurant

The Exchange Restaurant

The building at 118-120 Main Street, today the Exchange restaurant, is the former home of Shrader Brothers Undertaking and Livery. | Creator: Photo by Mary K. Marlatt View File Details Page

Funeral Services Advertisement

Funeral Services Advertisement

Furniture makers often built coffins, and many became undertakers. In New Albany, John Shrader, Sr., and George Kraft took this route. Both were furniture makers who built coffins and became funeral directors. Both firms continued managed to remain in business long after furniture production became prohibitively expensive. The Shrader Funeral home closed in 2010 after the death of the fifth-generation owner. Kraft Funeral Service remains in business today at 708 East Spring Street. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library. | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library View File Details Page

John Shrader

John Shrader

John Shrader (1820-1895) pioneered the development of furniture manufacturing in southern Indiana. Shrader emigrated from Germany as a young boy and arrived in New Albany at age 17. After apprenticing with furniture manufacturer William L. Sanderson, Shrader opened his own firm. He went on to achieve unequalled success among local producers. When Shrader died in 1895, he left an estate valued at approximately $100,000. | Creator: Courtesy New Albany-Floyd County Public Library View File Details Page

Southern Indiana Steam Works Advertisement

Southern Indiana Steam Works Advertisement

This advertisement for the Southern Indiana Steam Furniture Works appeared in the New Albany Standard-Ledger in 1880. Owned by John B. Shrader, the factory used steam power to reduce production costs.Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd Public Library | Source: New Albany Standard-Ledger, New Albany-Floyd County Library Digital Collections | Creator: Courtesy New Albany-Floyd County Public Library View File Details Page

John Schrader Company Advertisement

John Schrader Company Advertisement

In 1903, the John H. Shrader, Sr., Company began manufacturing folding beds at a facility located at Third and Main Street. Folding beds had long been a staple of New Albany manufacturing. Steamboats relied on them to save space. | Creator: Courtesy New Albany-Floyd County Public Library View File Details Page

Shrader House

Shrader House

John Shrader, a furniture manufacturer and dealer, livery stable owner, and undertaker, lived in this house at 119 West First Street. He and his wife Margaret raised ten children. Many of them followed in their father™s footsteps by becoming furniture manufacturers and undertakers. One son, Frank Shrader, served as mayor of New Albany from 1902-1904. Image courtesy of New Albany-Floyd County Public Library | Source: New Albany-Floyd County Public Library View File Details Page

Edwardsville Cemetery

Edwardsville Cemetery

Two undertakers with the same name can cause confusion. In July 1898, John Shipley was killed in a train wreck near New Albany. George Shrader claimed the body and prepared it for burial. However, Shipley™s mother wanted George™s brother, John Shrader, Jr., to do the honors. George refused to transfer the body to John. The next day, George Schrader went to Edwardsville to bury Mr. Shipley. John Shrader and Mrs. Shipley confronted him and demanded the body. John performed the burial and George returned to New Albany with an empty casket. Image courtesy of George Weigleb | Source: George Weigleb | Creator: George Weigleb View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

John Slack, Mary K. Marlatt, Benjamin Gies, and Ellis Cassity, “Furniture Corner,” Discover Indiana, accessed March 29, 2017, http://indyhist.iupui.edu/items/show/96.
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