McHugh Furnishings is very proud of its rich history in supplying premium furnishings to the NY Metropolitan area.

Original McHugh Truck


In 1878, Joseph P. McHugh (1854-1916) established his business, The Popular Shop, in a small space within his father’s 8th Avenue store.

Two years later, he opened up his own shop at 912 5th Avenue near 52nd Street. By 1884, he established an even larger store on 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. At this point in time, McHugh began to sell a complete range of interior design products.

Mr. McHugh was also the self-proclaimed originator of Mission-style furniture in America. In fact, his keen sense of popular taste brought him to the forefront of the American Arts & Crafts movement in the early 20th Century.


Mr. McHugh was a “highly motivated and prolific manufacturer whose success helped popularize the Arts and Crafts movement in America.”

Original McHugh Storefront NYC

Joseph P. McHugh and Co. were the first American firm to mass produce mission-style furnishings. His production and marketing skills allowed McHugh to set the standard for American Arts & Crafts taste. By the time the preference for mission style furnishings waned, McHugh quickly made the transition to other furnishing styles.

In a 1915 article on McHugh and the history of The Popular Shop, the Decorative Furniture described the manufacturer and his ambitions: “He is literally human dynamo; work is his food, he thrives on it. He can think quickly and he can act quickly. He gets an idea – never mind the source, for he takes his ideas from his daily life, from his business, from his reading, from the people he meets, from what is going on around him, from everywhere for all is grist that comes to the mill – and it is put in operation at once. Sketches are made, plans are made, models are made, and one morning the decorative world awakes to a new kind of wall hanging…a new piece of furniture, new color combination, or what not…That is the tally of “The Popular Shop.”

Mr. McHugh advertised the Popular Shop as “an oasis of good taste.” Additionally, he would state “the distinction of being different.” As the name The Popular Shop implied, McHugh was focused on keeping up with the latest fashions as he sold mission style, colonial revival and willow (or wicker furniture). In 1926, Joseph McHugh was succeeded by his son, James S. McHugh, and grew the business into the more expansive commercial markets.

William Francis Mulhall

It wasn’t until 1943 when a young salesman for J.S. McHugh was offered the opportunity by the McHugh family to purchase the business. James Slattery McHugh, who had renamed the company J.S.McHugh, had just passed away and his survivors determined that their energetic, young salesman had what it took to carry on the tradition of their family business. Thus, William (Bill) Francis Mulhall became the third owner in the company’s 65-year existence. For the next 50 years, Bill honored the McHugh family tradition by successfully leading their business in an energetic, honest and diligent fashion.

At that time, McHugh was headquartered at 515 Madison Avenue in New York City. The company was specializing in residential and commercial furnishings. Soon after Mr. Mulhall bought the company, he entered the Air Force as a navigator in the European Theater. During his service, his wife, Elise Davis Mulhall, simultaneously cared for their two young children and effectively ran the business.

William Francis Mulhall in military uniform
JS McHugh Newspaper Clipping

As seen in the 1938 Wiedersum Architectural Journal

Origins in Educational Furnishings

After the war, Bill returned to Long Island and saw the burgeoning opportunities in educational furnishings that followed the post-war housing boom on Long Island. Not surprisingly, one of his first sales was a projector and screen to the Levittown UFSD. By the 1950s, McHugh had established itself as the preeminent educational furniture contractor for Metropolitan New York by bringing such quality manufacturers as E.H. Sheldon (Sheldon Laboratory Systems), Irwin Seating Company and Republic Steel (Republic Storage Systems).

An Industry Legend

William (Bill) Mulhall was known throughout the industry for his hard work, humility, honesty and determination. His impact on the educational distribution market was felt beyond New York. To this day when the McHugh team attends national conventions, we always meet someone who recalls Bill Mulhall with warmth and graciousness.

A history of Bill would be incomplete if we did not include a brief description of his incredible sense of humor and wonderfully dry delivery.  We were fortunate to be led by him and, to this day, he continues to make us laugh as we recall with great pride his terrific sense of delivery, timing and originality.

William Mulhall passed away in 1998 and was survived by his wife Elise, his three children and his ten grandchildren. However, his spirit lives on today in McHugh Furnishings as we endeavor to follow his examples of hard work, humility and honesty.

The Distinction of Being Different