Building on a Historic Canadian Legacy
For over 180 years, the Gibbard Furniture Factory has been an iconic landmark in scenic Napanee, Ontario. It’s a focal point for the town that’s rich in history. Honouring this legacy, we’re transforming it into a highly anticipated waterfront community with retail space and a platform for local gatherings. Here’s how we’re building on a historic foundation to create a destination that will inject energy and opportunity into Napanee.
A Napanee landmark and Canadian success story
The story of the Gibbard Furniture Factory is a cherished part of Napanee’s history. Founded in 1835 by John Gibbard, the factory predated Confederation and survived two world wars and the Great Depression. For 173 years, four generations of Gibbards ran the factory, growing it from a small cabinet-making shop into a leading furniture brand. In the 1940s, the McPherson family purchased the factory and ran it until it closed its doors in 2009. With both families at the helm, the company experienced tremendous success and became known for its well-crafted products.
Gibbard District builds on this legacy by honouring the high quality and spirit of community that defined the Gibbard Furniture Factory.
Continuing a tradition of high quality
Throughout Canada, Gibbard furniture was known for its quality. As Greater Napanee Mayor Gordon Schermerhorn put it, Gibbard “created not pieces of furniture, but family heirlooms. Their creations passed between generations, creating many family bonds.” However, Gibbard furniture wasn’t just a staple in homes across the country. It has decorated Canadian embassies, consulates, and high commissions around the world. It’s even been said that Canada’s first prime minister, Sir John A. McDonald, had a Gibbard desk.
As a high-quality development, Gibbard District maintains this tradition of superior craftsmanship. Its thoughtfully designed residential units and common spaces create a vibrant community where families can escape the big city, downsize, or pursue their dreams. To symbolize this enduring commitment to quality, Gibbard District’s floor plans are named after the factory’s outstanding products.
Honouring the spirit of community
In addition to being known for its high-quality products, the Gibbard Furniture factory was celebrated in Napanee because of its emphasis on community. Indeed, Gibbard’s dedicated employees, many of whom worked at the company for decades, didn’t just make great furniture. They became an integral part of the Napanee community, serving as coaches, hospital volunteers, and members of service clubs. Just as the town of Napanee took pride in the success of the Gibbard Furniture Factory, Gibbard’s owners and employees took pride in giving back to the community.
The vibrant piazza at the centre of Gibbard District reflects this spirit of community that defined the Gibbard Furniture Factory. With retail space for potential restaurants and shops and a platform for local gatherings, the community hub isn’t just a space for Gibbard District residents. It’s a place where the people of Napanee and surrounding communities can gather to spend time with friends and family. It will also serve as a venue for local events, such as tree-lighting festivals and farmers’ markets.
Leveraging the past to shape the future
When it came time to sell the Gibbard Furniture Factory, former co-owner Bruce McPherson Jr. was keen to ensure the historic site remained an active part of Napanee. That’s why he was “blown away” when he saw the sketches of Gibbard District. He believes the community uniquely captures the legacy of the factory and will only add to the success Napanee has experienced thanks to recent developments that have brought new stores, restaurants, and recreational facilities to the close-knit town.
Although Gibbard District marks a new chapter in Gibbard history, it means a lot to McPherson that parts of the factory, including its name and sections of its façade, are being preserved and incorporated into the community. To him, it couldn’t be a better example of harnessing a successful past to build for the future.