Backstory and Context
Harry R. Pugh was born in Kansas in 1887. He was educated at the Riverside Seminary in Vanceburg, Kentucky. In 1909, he was married to Flora McEldowney of Valley, Kentucky. He was based Charleston as traveling salesman for Dawley Furniture Company and in 1910.
In 1917, H.R. Pugh and R.G. Hubbard opened a wholesale furniture business in the old Mead Building at Kanawha Street. On May 12, 1917 Pugh and Hubbard received a certificate of incorporation for wholesale and retail furniture with an “authorized capital of $50.00.” In addition to Pugh and Hubbard, G.W. Hanshaw, J.S. Travel and J. Shaver of Charleston were on the certificate. It was known as the “only wholesale furniture house” in the state.
In August 1918, Pugh Furniture rented 908 Kanawha Street from Harrison B. Smith selling to wholesalers with “increasing facilities” noted in advertisements in Charleston and Beckley. The bundling was built about 1900 by C.K. Payne.
The rate of growth was fast. From 1918 to 1919 the company is noted as “doubled its business.” July 1919 the Daily Mail ran an article noting the foundation work almost complete for a new building at 1322 Smith Street (then known as Wilson Street and ran from Brooks to Ruffner along the New York Central Railroad). The railway connected provided easy access to bring in shipments to Pugh Furniture.
The new building included plans for a spur of the K & M railroad which is unclear was ever built, but could be the spur located southeast at Ruffner and Smith today. Wilson Street was merged with and was absorbed into Smith Street at an undetermined date.The over engineered walls of are poured concrete 12 inches thick built in a “manner the Pugh Furniture Co. has an eye on the future when greater floor space will be needed and then they can build on either side of the one now going up and save the expense of one wall.” Inside overengineered wood supports hold up the interior floors. The two west bays are three stories tall and the two east bays are four stories tall with large garage style access for trucks. The stepped parapets on the sides are capped with terracotta. The building is clad in wire cut clay brick laid in stretcher bond with soldier course brick work highlighting the windows. The industrial hopper style metal windows adorn the street façade of the upper floor with a brick glass infilling the two street level windows. The building features the original freight elevator which is still used daily. The 908 Kanawha Street location was remodeled to show room space with offices remaining at that location.
By November 1919 Pugh Furniture, Co. became Pugh Furniture, Ltd. The 50,000 additional square foot warehouse was not yet completed.
A fire gutted the 908 Kanawha Street building on the night of September 25, 1920 which Pugh Furniture rented from Harrison B. Smith. The fire destroyed an estimated $10,000 in furniture. In addition to the building, the fire threatened the original 1891 South Side bridge. By October 1920, the entire operation of the company was moved to the new Wilson Street warehouse, where most of the furniture was store limiting the loss of stock in the Kanawha Boulevard location fire. All was not bad in 1920 as the company attained the $1,000.000 mark, had eight on the road salesman, and began offering a catalog.
In 1920 the limited corporation listed the stockholders as R.G. Hubbard, R. Pugh, E.A Agnew, E.C. Hanna E.O. Boyd, Miss Helen Pugh and Ad Pugh.
In 1975 the city opened the new parking garage on Virginia at Dickenson Street. Two commercial areas were available on the ground floor of the building fronting Virginia. The downtown showroom was noted by Reid Pugh as the first retail outlet for the company opening in December 1975 with six or seven employees. By the early 2000s the building became dominated with city offices.
Still operating out of the 1919 building at 1320 Smith Street, the Pugh Furniture has lasted 100 years which is an accomplishment few business will achieve.
Blevins, Ernest Everett, “The Storied History of Pugh Furniture Which Turns 100 Friday” Charleston Daily-Mail (Charleston, West Virginia), (12 May 2017), 5A.
Charleston City Directories
The above used many archived newspaper sources which can be easily found.