In 1818, when sawmills buzzed in Connecticut’s river towns, a man named Lambert Hitchcock began to make chairs as no one ever had before. Back then, furniture was crafted one piece at a time. Hitchcock was a master woodworker, with a love of detail finessed by human hands. But he had seen what clock makers could do by machining many interchangeable parts. From them, he took his cue.
It was in 1825 that Lambert Hitchcock built his first factory here in Riverton on the Farmington River. At the time this community was known as the village of “Hitchcocksville in Barkhamsted” in deference to Lambert Hitchcock and his large chair factory.
From a sawmill and nearby wooden building at the fork of the Farmington and Still Rivers, Hitchcock began to mass produce chair parts from maple, birch and oak forested nearby. At the same time, he brought his craft to a new pinnacle, using stenciling techniques that glowed with a miniaturist’s artistry. The finishes (notably a luminous black) were fresh and new. Seat backs were given original shapes, and arms and legs new twists. In this way, Hitchcock mass-produced 15,000 chairs a year — yet every one looked “made to order.”
This original brick building comprises the front part of what is today Riverton Self Storage. Yet most of the building, which is used for our climate controlled self storage facility, was built in the 1950’s and early 1960’s by John Tarrant Kenney. It was Mr. Kenney, who in 1946, while fishing in the Farmington River happened upon this original building of Lambert Hitchcock’s and became determined to re-establish this once famous chair making business.
From the early 1950’s Mr. Kenney grew the Hitchcock Chair company into one of the pre-eminent furniture manufacturers in the country. As the business grew and additional factories were opened in other parts of the local community this building took on a new role. It was in 1961, that Mr. Kenney decided to enter the retail business and began to sell the first items of furniture not manufactured by the Hitchcock Chair Company.
To compliment the Hitchcock style, which was comprised primary of Early American dining room suites, Mr. Kenney began to sell Queen Ann Style Wing Back chairs manufactured by the Conover Company of Conover North Carolina. This ushered in a new era for this already famous building. From that one simple Wing Back chair, Hitchcock Traditional Home Furnishings was born. Mr. Kenney went on to add numerous other lines to the retail selection. By early 2000 Hitchcock Fine Home Furnishings was one of the finest Interior Design showrooms in the country.
From 1961 until the Hitchcock Chair Company closed in 2006 this building was the retail center of the Hitchcock group of company’s which by now spanned numerous states. People from all over the world have come to this building to enjoy and purchase Hitchcock products, yet upon arriving, all have found this building to have a special look and feel.
Riverton Self Storage has gone to great lengths to preserve the façade of this famous factory. We want all comers to continue to have that warm feeling when visiting Riverton. We are proud to continue on with the legacy of quality established by Lambert Hitchcock nearly 200 years ago. As this building enters yet another phase, it does so, with quality and conservation in mind.
For more on The Hitchcock Chair Company click here