A Brief History of B.F. Huntley, Sr.
Nicely tucked into Robert Hall you’ll find The Huntley House—a set of boutique accommodations designed to make guests feel as if they have come to stay with their most sophisticated and eclectic relatives. Each room has its own personality, meticulously curated with new “old” treasures and family heirlooms.
But, the familial ties don’t stop there.
The Huntley House itself was named in honor of Benjamin Franklin Huntley, Sr., the namesake of one of the most successful furniture companies born out of Winston-Salem, and my great-grandfather.
With the creation of B.F. Huntley Furniture Co., which was in operation from 1906 until 1961 when it was bought out by Thomasville Furniture Industries, Mr. Huntley became one of a few prosperous businessmen in the Twin City whose fortune wasn’t directly linked to textiles or tobacco. In its heyday, B.F. Huntley Furniture Co. was one of the biggest furniture manufacturers in the South and had the largest bedroom and dining room divisions in the United States.
Mr. Huntley’s backstory is anything but dull. At the age of 19, my great-grandfather’s left arm was violently severed from his body in a cotton gin accident. Unable to continue working on his father’s farm in South Carolina, Mr. Huntley moved north and started working as a traveling salesman for a High-Point furniture company. From here, Mr. Huntley’s interest in the furniture industry flourished. In the words of his daughter (and my grandmother), Kathleen Huntley Spencer, Mr. Huntley was a self-made man with a self-trained mind.
“The discipline of [losing his arm] became to him a triumph more than a defeat. His strong right arm acquired the strength and skill of two. What is of vastly greater importance is that it awoke his greatest powers to the task of mastering other difficulties and leaping clear of the stumbling stones which beset others. He had confidence in his own ability, but he also had confidence in the organization which he had created.”
A few years back, I worked with the State of North Carolina to erect a historical marker at the corner of 1201 Patterson Ave. in downtown Winston-Salem that details some of the history of the B.F. Huntley Furniture Company. I’ve also had the distinct pleasure of walking in my great-grandfather’s footsteps over the past 40 years by running some of my own businesses (including Robert Hall) just a half mile away from where the B.F Huntley Furniture Company factory once flourished.
It has always been important to me to make sure that Mr. Huntley’s contributions to our community are not forgotten—I believe that it’s part of my legacy to preserve his.