Whenever I’m driving back to the Valley from Boston, I like to take either Route 2 or 2A (which can be confusing to those who aren’t from New England since they essentially run parallel to each other.) Either option takes me through scenic back roads, historical neighborhoods and by unusual shops and oddities in towns like Lunenburg, Templeton and Shirley.
But one of my favorite (and abandoned, of course) places to pass during my drive home is Wayside Furniture in Gardner, Massachusetts. Gardner has been/is considered the “Furniture Capital of New England” given that it was booming for lumbar industries and furniture production way back in the early 1800s- and I know this because my family used to own a furniture store for many years. It wasn’t in Gardner- but someone had mentioned it once and the title stuck with me.
Gardner is also called “Chair City,” which was seemingly celebrated by Wayside Furniture with the big yellow metal chair fixture outside what remains of the family-owned business. You can’t miss it from the road. It’s huge.
I don’t know when Wayside Furniture closed, exactly. They still have a website with an undated post indicating that they were closing their doors after 72 years. The condition of the building suggests this happened a long time ago- since some of the windows are broken or covered in grime and the grounds are mostly overgrown. I recently made a stop to photograph the exterior of the building (and the yellow chair) during a drive home. Something else that I love about the building that I didn’t notice until I was standing next to it was that it looks so out of place compared to it’s surroundings- which are mostly small homes and ground-level factories/businesses/garages.
It’s an empty, four-story building that catches your eye as you approach it- and I hope it’s repurposed into something else someday. There’s so much space that can be utilized for different things.
The yellow chair has to remain outside, though. It’s iconic.