Waterford Heritage & Agricultural Museum (WHAM)

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McCALL Furniture Factory, St. Williams

The McCall Furniture Factory in St. Williams, was one of the largest producers of furniture in Norfolk County. Daniel McCall founded what would become a family firm in the 1860’s and worked in partnership with both William McBurney and later John Mason. For a time, the business was known as McCall, McBurney & Company and also McCall’s Planing Mill.

McCall Factory
McCall Factory c.1910 (near of the corner of Townline St. & Queen St. E.)
McCall furniture
McCall furniture (collection of the Pt.Rowan/South Walsingham Heritage Assoc.)

The company’s ability to adapt led to its continued success for nearly a century. With a focus on lumber, the factory turned out building materials, finished furniture, carriages and boats – one of the first vessels being the schooner Bay Trader which was used to distribute their products around the shores of Lake Erie. The onsite steam sawmill also meant the factory could produce staves, spars, shingles, and square timber.

Factory invoice
Factory invoice

Daniel’s son, Walter McCall, took over the business near the end of the 1800’s. It was during this period that a vast array of furniture was produced. Some of the finest pieces were made from Norfolk walnut and chestnut. Oak, hard maple and pine were used as secondary woods for interior frames and upholstered chairs. McCall furniture features oversized and “chunky” details instead of the more finally finished turnings and applications characteristic of the late Victoria period. Large slabs of wood are also common, namely because of its ample availability in the area.

Ken McCall became the third generation to run the business and by the 1940’s Ken’s son, Robert was heading the firm. During this period, the factory focused largely on boat building and was rebranded as the McCall Boat Works and later Ken Mac Boats. During the Second World War, a government contract to provide life boats for the Royal Canadian Navy was secured. With this, McCall’s were in continuous production throughout the war and shortly after. The last 20 years of the factory saw very little furniture production. The business closed in 1961 following a fire (the fourth in its history). A section of the factory remains today on Queen Street East near the Townline intersection.