Know your Norfolk

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 3, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

You may think the 1820 mahogany table handed down through generations of your family was made in New York.

But there’s a good chance it may have been made by woodcrafters in Norfolk, said Edward L. King, assistant director of Riddick’s Folly.

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Unbeknownst to many, Norfolk was a major producer of quality furniture that rivaled that manufactured in major cities during the early-to-mid 1800s.

Now, with the publishing of a new book, &uot;Classical Norfolk Furniture: 1810-1840,&uot; Norfolk is finally getting the attention it deserves, he said.

&uot;When people think of nice furniture from that era, they automatically think it came from Philadelphia or New York,&uot; King said. &uot;Now Norfolk is coming into its own.&uot;

Later this month, Suffolk residents will have a chance to get to learn more about Norfolk furniture, courtesy of Riddick’s Folly. The museum on North Main Street is hosting a book signing from 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 11, giving visitors a chance to meet authors James R. Melchor of Norfolk and Thomas R. J. Newbern of North Carolina.

&uot;Furniture being made in Norfolk at the time was every bit as good as that being made in New York or Philadelphia,&uot; said Melchor, who has studied Norfolk furniture for more than two decades.

The largest public collection of Norfolk furniture is in Riddick’s Folly, said Melchor.

The Suffolk museum has seven pieces of Norfolk furniture, all made by woodworker James Woodward, including an 1835 Butler desk, an 1819 sewing table, an 1818 bed and an 1825 breakfast table, King said.

Plenty of people probably have Norfolk furniture in their homes and don’t even realize it, Melchor said.

Melchor and Newbern’s book is the first major study compiled of Norfolk furniture.

&uot;We found loads of it in people’s homes while we were researching this book,&uot; Melchor said.

As people become aware of the furniture’s history, it is likely to grow in popularity, King said.

People should call 934-1390 by Sept. 5 to make reservations.