The Warlong Glove Company...
and a magnificent 21st century transformation
The Warlong Glove Co., ca 1916
A branch of the Shuford family was instrumental in the development of the glove and furniture industries in Conover. Adrian R. Shuford began his career as a clerk in his uncle Abel Shuford's bank in Hickory. In 1916, Shuford and a local Republican politician, Charles Robert Brady, bought the Warlong Glove Company of Newton and moved it to Conover. Brady and Shuford branched into other business ventures, and, by 1925, they held a controlling interest in Hickory Handle. In 1927, they sold the company to Preston Yount and Rob Herman, who were the supervisors at the glove and furniture mills respectively. A year later, Brady and Shuford divided Conover Furniture into two companies, with Brady retaining control of Conover Furniture and Shuford taking charge of Warlong Glove. Under Shuford's management, Conover Knitting Company was established and installed in the same building as Warlong Glove. Conover Furniture passed to Brady's son, Walter Brady, and son-in-law Bill Barker upon his death in 1934. Interviews with members of the Shuford family and with Lula Brady Barker document the history of the Shuford and Brady enterprises in Conover.
During the Depression, the furniture industry hit upon hard times owing to a decline in the market. As a result, Conover Furniture went bankrupt in 1938. James Edgar Broyhill, a Lenoir industrialist, bought the plant in 1941. Information on the development of the glove industry after World War II can be found in the interview with Arthur Little, founder and owner of Southern Glove, and in interviews with Ralph Bowman, former president of Hickory Chair, and Hugh Boyer, president of the company (now called Hickory Manufacturing). These interviews also document the transition from family to corporate management, and the interviewees' ties with the furniture industry as a whole through membership in such organizations as Western Carolina Industries and the Southern Furniture Manufacturers' Association.
The Old Warlong Glove plant - a fascinating transition would be on the horizon!
After the closure of the factory, the Broyhill Furniture Company bought the property and used the building and the 25 acre complex in the manufacture of furniture. The business recession of the late 1990's and the increased import of foreign furniture resulted in the closure of the Newton and Conover Broyhill factories. This resulting in a substantial impact on the economies of both Newton and Conover. The Conover property was later purchased by the city of Conover for future redevelopment.
With the purchase of the old Broyhill property (including the former Warlong Glove plant), the mayor of the city of Conover, the city council and the Conover Planning Department, set forth to utilize the 25 acres of the abandoned factory complex. Their decisions would result in a showcase of urban planning and landmark land utilization which serves as a model for the entire nation.
Artist's conception of a refurbished Warlong Glove/Broyhill Furniture plant
The city of Conover made bold and rapid decisions to utilize obsolete industrial facilities in a way that would best benefit the city and its citizens. A proposal was made to reestablish passenger train service to Conover on the Norfolk Southern railroad line between Salisbury and Asheville with a completely new station. With state approval required for such a daring plan, unheard of in this 21st century, the NC Department of Transportation approved the plan. This was the result of agressive presentations of comprehensive plans, showcasing an idealized and achievable urban planning project. Together with the reestablishment of a railroad station, the complex would include a local transit complex, a public library, a park and other citizen-oriented services. All of this has been done with environmental and economic models. This should serve as a progressive prototype for other urban communities seeking to meld elements of their historic past into a perfect balance between the past and the future.
Artist's conception of a Multi-modal Transit Facility
Erik Schlicting, City of Conover Planning Director was instrumental in providing the NCDOT with a viable working plan.
This fascinating conception or Conover's urban future resulted in approval by the NC DOT and overwhelming support from the local community.
3-D FLYBY RENDERING
Approval for go-ahead from the NC Dept. of Transportation
The NCDOT rarely approves projects of this magnitude. This is a tribute to the management and planning by the City of Conover.
We applaud their forward thinking, their excellence in planning and their progressive vision for the future of our beloved city.
Press Release - announcement to the community and media of Conover's success.
Very few communities have the elected and appointed talent to take lemons and make such a magnificent pitcher of lemonade.
The citizens of Conover are grateful for their leadership--and for a really fantastic serving of lemonade.
All photos courtesy of Don Barker
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