Ted Belden, son of Pinecraft Furniture originator Charles Selden Belden, headlines the Idyllwild Community Recreation Council’s popular series on Friday, March 15. This is a not to be missed opportunity for anyone interested in Idyllwild’s history from the 30s through the 60s, and for devotees and collectors of the Pinecraft Furniture line, which Selden began creating in 1934 when the family moved here from Long Beach.
“Dad bought a lot in Pine Cove,” Ted said. “At the time lots cost from $10 to $50, it cost $6 a year for water and we had no electricity or gas [propane]. He had a 1928 Hudson six-cylinder powerful enough to pull a flatbed that he used to haul lumber to build our house.” Because they had no furniture, Ted remembers his dad began building furniture for the family originating the craftsman look of what became the Pinecraft line. Neighbors and friends began noticing what Selden was producing and wanted the furniture for their own cabins, with the result that what began as building for the family became a business with more demand than Selden could accommodate.
In order to handle the growing furniture business, the family moved to Idyllwild in 1939, where, as Ted pointed out, there was electricity that offered the opportunity to speed up production and fulfill growing demand for Selden’s Pinecraft pieces. “Up to the move to Idyllwild, Dad’s furniture building had been low-key, almost making a living for us with customers mostly from the Hill,” Ted remembered. “But the demand began to be greater than Dad could accommodate with hand tools. He needed machine tools, and that meant electricity. It also allowed for spray finishing the wood instead of the more time-intensive brush finishing. It improved the quality of the furniture and the speed of production.”
What became the Belden furniture “factory” and warehouse was located at the site of the present Mile High Café near Idyllwild School on Highway 243. “Dad began developing a full line of upholstered furniture, including tables, chairs, beds and dressers. With what he began making you could furnish an entire cabin just with Pinecraft.”
The business grew, Selden added employees, and the Pinecraft line gained wider recognition. When Selden died in 1952 at the age of 63, Ted left graduate school at Stanford to return to Idyllwild to help his mother Coral run the business. Ted added his own touches to how the wood was stored and dried over a three-year period prior to constructing the furniture.
In 1960, the Beldens closed the business and Ted began a long career with IBM.
Belden’s talk begins at 6 p.m., Friday, March 15 at Silver Pines Lodge. There is a wine and cheese reception at 5:30. Both are free to the public.