Have a Seat, and Read about the Milne Chair Company

Wednesday, April 28, 2010 - by Harmon Jolley
The Milne Chair Company was a huge factory complex in Avondale.  Milne Street is still found there today. Click to enlarge.
The Milne Chair Company was a huge factory complex in Avondale. Milne Street is still found there today. Click to enlarge.

Walter Scott Milne was born in Ethel, Ontario in 1864. His means of learning about a business opportunity in Cleveland, Tennessee – seven hundred fifty-three miles away – is not clear from the record available to me. However, in 1893, W.S. Milne purchased the Cleveland Chair Company in its fourth year of operation. This enterprise was renamed the Milne Chair Company.

The Milne family was active in the business, and saw it prosper. Some histories of Cleveland and Bradley County note that W.S. Milne and his family took part in the civic affairs of their community and were generous in donations. Milne also did well enough in making chairs and rockers that he was able to afford multiple automobiles in the early years of the horseless carriages.

The business of crafting products from wood can be dangerous, with all the proper ingredients present for combustibility. On more than one occasion, the Milne factory caught fire. After a blaze on December 3, 1912, W.S. Milne decided to relocate to Chattanooga, where there was a richer infrastructure for manufacturing. Two hundred fifty workers in Cleveland were affected by the move.

A new factory was built on thirty-five acres in the Avondale community near Orchard Knob Avenue. Long, three-story rectangular buildings were joined on one end to form the chair complex. Dry kilns were heated by waste sawdust collected from the woodworking machinery. W.S. Milne proclaimed in a Chattanooga Times advertisement that his factory was “the most modern electrically-equipped chair factory south of the Ohio River.”

Several Chattanooga businesses profited from the construction. James Supply supplied transmission machinery, belting, valves and fittings for the “best equipped chair plant” according to their Times advertisement. Chattanooga Boiler and Tank furnished the water tower.

Towards the end of 1913, the now Chattanooga-based Milne Chair Company was ready. The December 27, 1913 Chattanooga Times reported the formal opening. One hundred guests of the manufacturing leadership were invited. The owner’s daughter, Margaret Milne, turned the switch to activate power throughout the plant. Guests were given chair spindles as souvenirs.

Subsequent years saw the Milne Chair Company faced with difficulty in keeping the family business going. W.S. Milne passed away in 1924 after an extended illness. W.S. Milne’s son-in-law, Harold Morrison, and brother, David E. Milne, served in leadership roles but both died in the 1940’s.

Mary B. Milne, widow of the founder, was head of the company in 1950, its last full year of operation. On May 23, 1951, the Chattanooga Times covered the previous day’s auction of the Milne property. This included brick buildings totaling 245,000 square feet of space, and thirty-four acres. It was reported that Chattanooga Lookouts owner Joe Engel purchased some trucks and was expected to bid on woodworking machinery; all destined for a baseball bat factory that he planned to build in Chattanooga.

The former Milne site provided an address for various occupants in ensuing years. In the latter part of 1951, the Southern Champion Tray Company occupied two floors of one wing. On October 13, 1976, the Chattanooga News-Free Press reported that the Chattanooga Housing Authority bought the property for residential development.

If you have information on the Milne Chair Company, or have a photograph of a Milne chair, please send me an e-mail at jolleyh@bellsouth.net.


Civil War Historian San Elliot To Speak At The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Aug. 6

Happy 4th Of July, Representative Government

Wayne Shearer’s World War II Memoir, Part 19: Taking A First Flight In A PT-19


Sam Elliott, a resident of Signal Mountain, well known Chattanooga attorney, and recognized Civil War historian will present a program entitled, “Tennesseans in the Battle of Chickamauga" at ... (click for more)

As a former U. S. History and Government teacher, the Chattanooga - Hamilton County Historian and a proud member of the Chief John Ross Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, ... (click for more)

(Editor’s Note: Dr. Wayne Shearer, 94, is a retired optometrist and retired colonel from the U.S. Air Force Reserve now living in Hixson. In his early 90s, he decided to sit down and write from ... (click for more)


Memories

Civil War Historian San Elliot To Speak At The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society Aug. 6

Sam Elliott, a resident of Signal Mountain, well known Chattanooga attorney, and recognized Civil War historian will present a program entitled, “Tennesseans in the Battle of Chickamauga" at The Signal Mountain Genealogical Society at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 6 at the Walden Town Hall, 1836 Taft Highway. Refreshments will be served followed by a brief business meeting and program. ... (click for more)

Happy 4th Of July, Representative Government

As a former U. S. History and Government teacher, the Chattanooga - Hamilton County Historian and a proud member of the Chief John Ross Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution, July 4th may be my favorite national holiday. I must admit that I can hear Thomas Jefferson’s stirring words echoing in my soul every time the Declaration of Independence is mentioned ... (click for more)

Breaking News

Small Plane Crashes Near Dunlap

A small plane crashed on Wednesday at Cagle Mountain near Dunlap. Authorities said the pilot was airlifted to Erlanger Hospital. He was described as in his mid-to-late 50s or 60s. There were no passengers, it was stated. Based on the plane's registration number, it was a Glasair amateur-built experimental plane. It was built in Canada in 2002. The pilot was described ... (click for more)

Smedley, Smith, Boyd, Bankston, Graham Among Candidates Mentioned For 2020 County Mayor Race With Coppinger Possibly Retiring

It may be three years away, but candidates are lining up for the 2022 county mayor race with Jim Coppinger possibly retiring. County Mayor Coppinger said his focus is on continued progress during the current four-year term. Political observers believe he tipped his hat on this being his final term by coming out for a school tax that is unpopular in some circles and lost out on ... (click for more)

Opinion

Opinion Correction: Erlanger Does Not Offer $20,000 Nurse Signing Bonuses

An opinion in Chattanoogan.com on Monday said Erlanger Health Systems had $20,000 nurse signing bonuses. Erlanger officials said that is another local hospital - not Erlanger. Columnist Roy Exum said, "In a story that I wrote on July 15, “A Nursing Shortage?” I mistakenly identified Erlanger Hospital as one hospital that offers prospective nurses a $20,000 signing bonus. ... (click for more)

Roy Exum: Use 'Tags' At Erlanger

When I was a senior in high school, the Vietnam catastrophe held the guys who were in my class spellbound. Back then, and has since been proven again and again, the conflict was a terrible error in our nation’s judgment and almost 60,000 young and promising Americans died in some stinking South Asian battle zone that didn’t mean squat to our freedom or our nation’s future. In ... (click for more)