It was 1890; Edward Hall Company opened its doors for business at 218 South 2nd Street, Philadelphia, PA., in a four-story, 10,000 square foot building that specialized in the sales of imported African mahogany lumber. The company was located in the historical center of the city, just three blocks east of Independence Hall and Carpenter's Hall, south of Elfreth's Alley and the Betsy Ross House. By 1892, the business was prospering and Edward's son, William F. Hall (second generation) joined the firm, soon after that the company was then renamed Edward Hall & Son. In 1903, at the age of 82, Edward Hall passed and William had control. Known to have an aversion to nicknames, which was commonplace for men with the name William he preferred his middle name Fessenden. Following his father's death he elected to cease using his given name dropping it altogether and was known thereafter as Fessenden Hall. Two years later, in 1905, Fessenden modified the name of our company to match. Since that time our business has been known as Fessenden Hall.
Around 1914, plywood began to receive acceptance as a construction material. First developed in Europe, the product had been hampered by poor quality, the result of the lack of glue technology. Yet, plywood appeared to be a commodity with a future. By the time World War I started, Casein glue had been developed, and its use in the manufacture of plywood resulted in major improvements in the product. The material now had stability and was effectively used for both interior and exterior applications. As the war progressed, shortages of imported mahogany worsened until no mahogany from any world source could be found. In contrast, plywood factories were springing up all over the United States manufacturing the product from domestic woods. Fessenden Hall moved with the tide and become a major distributor of the plywood products. Fessenden Hall's son, Edward C. Hall (third generation) also had joined the firm. Our company's plywood sales boomed with the advent of fir plywood, manufactured on the West Coast. The very first railcar load of this new product shipped east, was received by Fessenden Hall. Acceptance of this fir plywood by the woodworking industry went very well. Fessenden Hall aggressively promoted and marketed the products all over the East and into the Deep South. In 1939, at the age of 71, Fessenden Hall passed and Edward had control.
In 1945 the Formica Insulation Company approached Edward C. Hall, suggesting that Fessenden Hall become a distributor of its new high-pressure product sold under the trade name of FORMICA®. The uniqueness, quality and durability of FORMICA® products coupled with the sales and distribution experience of our company proved to be an excellent combination.
It was around this time that a young service veteran who was selling insurance in Philadelphia and New Jersey as a Prudential Insurance agent, made a sales call on Edward C. Hall with the intent of selling him a policy. Conversely, Edward saw an enthusiastic salesman, and suggested that he consider selling plywood for Fessenden Hall. The year was 1947, and the salesman was Bob H. Birdsall Sr. (fourth generation).
In 1948, Fessenden Hall took on a line of Philippine mahogany lumber, sidings and moldings manufactured by the Insular Lumber Company on the island of Negros in the Philippines. The post war building boom was well underway, and Fessenden Hall significantly expanded its efforts promoting plywood, mahogany sidings and FORMICA® products.
In 1952, it was apparent that the company had outgrown its South 2nd Street location and needed a larger location. The company purchased a fifty-year-old, multi-floor building, formerly a farmer's market, ice house, and German social club, which was located at the southeast corner of 3rd and Norris Streets, Philadelphia. The 30,000-square-foot, multi-level warehouse offered so much storage capacity. The company was confident it would serve their needs for many years to come.
In 1955, Bob Birdsall Sr. recognized the need for marine grade plywoods to satisfy the needs of the boating industry. Initially, the market serviced was along the New Jersey coast. It quickly became international in scope. The plywood sold covers a spectrum of applications from production-manufactured powerboats and sailboats to custom-designed, custom-built luxury yachts where some of the most exotic matched veneers were used.
In 1964, Fessenden Hall moved into a one-floor, 45,000-square-foot building on Sherman Avenue in Pennsauken, New Jersey, uniquely situated between the Tacony Palmyra and Benjamin Franklin bridges which link Pennsylvania and New Jersey. In 1965, at the age of 73, Edward C. Hall passed and Bob Sr. had control.
In 1971, Fessenden Hall added another dimension to its marketing versatility with the addition of a solid surfacing material produced by E.I. du Pont called Corian®. Once again, our company was fortunate to have the opportunity of adding a product which was to receive major acceptance.
In 1974, Fessenden Hall expanded further, purchasing a distributorship in Laurel, Delaware, known as Laurel Distributors Ltd. Within a few years the operation was relocated to Dover, Delaware. This gave our company additional market penetration in the states of Delaware and Maryland.
In 1981 again expanding our value and versatility for our customers, Fessenden Hall was given the opportunity to participate in the functional hardware arena and the Blum Hardware line was added.
In 1983, Bob's son Edward Birdsall (fifth generation) joined the firm.
In 1986, Fessenden Hall of PA., Inc., located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, was established to serve the needs of a large number of kitchen cabinet manufacturers, fabricators, and custom wood shops in southeastern Pennsylvania area. Two years later, responding to business growth, the company moved the operation to a newly purchased building of 65,000 sq. ft.
In 1990 after 45 years and much dissection and disappointment, it became very apparent that the relationship between FORMICA® and Fessenden Hall was no longer in the best interest for either party but most importantly our customers. The decision was that Wilsonart® brand laminate would be the best fit for our customers and our company going forward. In 2000 Edward's nephew Roeby Birdsall III (sixth generation) joined the firm.
In 2003 Fessenden Hall established a location to service the needs in northern New Jersey market. Fessenden Hall North operated from a rented facility in Fairfield, NJ for five years before moving to its newest facility in West Caldwell. This branch has grown consistently by offering the full product line to the woodworking and countertop industry in North Jersey.
In 2005 after 34 years with E.I. Du Pont and Corian®, over time, we developed differences in opinion about the market needs and customers' expectations of both of our organizations. With that being realized, Fessenden Hall found the Meganite® brand surfacing material, and began to market and sell to hopefully begin building a brand for the product. Also in 2005, at the age of 81, Bob Birdsall Sr. passed and Edward has control.
Presently operating in 4 locations, the company now has in excess of 300,000 square feet of warehouse space. Fessenden Hall operates and maintains a fleet of 30 trucks which logs in excess of 1,000.000 miles per year to service our customers. We are blessed and honored to have 145 of the most dedicated, committed and trained staff, that are truly focused on customer's needs and their success.
Looking ahead to the future, Fessenden Hall Inc. will continue to follow the business philosophy that has served our customers, our venders and our company for over one hundred years:
"Give the customers quality products that are competitively priced, and above all, give them the best and most dependable service humanly possible -- and then some!"