From Mountains to Many Homes: The History of the Adirondack Chair

Beth Rice 29/08/2016

Thomas Lee had the chair pulled right out from under him, so to speak.  The summer of 1903 found Lee vacationing with family at his summer home in Westport, NY.  Located on Lake Champlain with the stunning views of the Adirondack mountains to entertain him, Lee encountered a problem.  His search for comfortable outdoor furniture produced nothing suitable.

Determined to solve this problem and enjoy all that the mountain views had to offer, Lee got to work creating prototypes of an outdoor chair that would be comfortable, durable, and sturdy when used on a sloping mountain region.

The Original

Lee created several variations of the original Adirondack chair, which he tested on family members.  The selected model was made of eleven pieces of knot free wood, all cut from the same plank.  The first Adirondack chair offered a slanted seat and straight back to remain balanced when placed on a steep area.  It was low slung and spacious with a high back and extra wide armrests that served as mini tabletops, providing room for a drink and a good book.

The Friend

Harry Bunnell was a friend and hunting buddy of Thomas Lee’s. Bunnell was also a carpenter by trade and when he learned of Lee’s design, he approached him about building some of Lee’s chairs in his wood shop for some extra cash. Lee agreed and lent his friend the plans for his new chair. That winter Bunnell set to work making Lee’s chairs. Westport residents snatched them up immediately.  By April 1904, Bunnell had secured a patent for “his” new chair model that he called the Westport Plank Chair. Bunnell would sell the Westport Plank Chair for the next twenty years, putting his signature on the back of each one.  Lee never saw a penny from the sales of his design but never attempted to reclaim it.

The Widespread Appeal

The Arts and Crafts Movement of the early 1900s brought with it a removal of the ornate and busy style of the Victorian era, and a focus on function and solid craftsmanship. The Westport chair was comfortable, durable, and functional, much like Amish furniture. As the chair gained appeal, it became known as the Adirondack chair for its widespread use in the Adirondack mountain region. The Amish Pine Wood Fan Back Garden Chair offers all the traditional features of the Adirondack for you to enjoy.

Amish Pine Wood Fan Back Garden Chair

The Variations

New versions of the Adirondack chair have emerged over time. Chair backs are often made with three to seven slats of wood, as featured here in the Amish Cedar Wood Fan Back Adirondack Chair, instead of the single plank of the Westport Chair.

Amish Cedar Wood Fan Back Adirondack Chair

Original Westport chairs were made of hemlock wood, today they are often made of pine like the Amish Pine Folding Adirondack Chair with Optional Ottoman.

Amish Pine Folding Adirondack Chair with Optional Ottoman

Another material that makes for a colorful, strong, and durable Adirondack chair is poly. This recyclable material turns plastic milk jugs into exceptional outdoor furniture like the Amish LuxCraft Poly Deluxe Adirondack Chair.

Amish LuxCraft Poly Wood Deluxe Adirondack Chair

Today, Adirondack chairs also come in foldable versions like the Amish LuxCraft Poly Folding Adirondack Chair.

Amish LuxCraft Poly Folding Adirondack Chair

Some are even available with the option of a footrest like the Amish Made Adirondack Chair with Optional Foot Rest.

Amish Made Adirondack Chair with Optional Foot Rest

Many Uses

The Adirondack chair is widely used and has become a symbol for rest and relaxation. Called the Muskoka Chair in Canada, it is available in a variety of woods and finishes.  Adirondack chairs are right at home anywhere, from beaches to mountain cabins to lakeside cottages.

Gather Around the Fire Pit

Grab a few friends and a bag of marshmallows and enjoy the gentle recline of the Berlin Gardens Natural Finish Comfo-Back Poly Adirondack Chair.

Berlin Gardens Natural Finish Comfo-Back Poly Adirondack

Relax on the Porch

Pick the perfect spot on your porch and lean back in the Amish Cedar Wood Mountain Adirondack Chair.

Amish Cedar Wood Mountain Adirondack Chair

Bask in the Sun

The Finch SeaAira Poly Adirondack Chair ensures you’ll have the best seat on the beach.

Finch SeaAira Poly Adirondack Chair

On the Dock

Wait for a bite on your line in the Amish Poly Fan-Back Adirondack Chair.

Amish Poly Fan-Back Adirondack Chair

On the Pool  Deck

Fall asleep to the sound of splashing as you put your feet up on the Berlin Gardens Comfo-Back Adriondack Chair.

Amish Poly Comfo-Back Adirondack Chair

In Front of a Café or Store

Offer a comfy place for customers to sit.  The storefront of our DutchCrafters Furniture Store in Sarasota, FL shines bright with a selection of chairs!

DC_Store_Ext_Adirondack_Blog_Post

The design of the Adirondack Chair has remained popular throughout the years. It shares the same focus as Amish furniture, offering a functional design in a variety of beautiful styles that is made to stand the test of time.

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