Adirondack chairs are familiar sights on lawns and patios across North America. Its rustic, simple lines have made it a favorite for many families for over a century. However, where did it come from?
In 1903, Thomas Lee and his family were vacationing in Westport, New York, a small town near Lake Champlain and the Adirondack Mountains. Unfortunately, there was no outdoor furniture at the house where they were staying. Lee decided to build his own. He experimented with several different styles and allowed his family to try them out before he settled on the Westport Plank Chair.
Lee’s hunting friend, Harry Bunnell, visited the Lee family at Westport and saw the new chair design. As a carpenter, Bunnell needed another product that he could work on during the winter months to generate additional income. He knew Lee’s design would be very popular. Knowing that his friend needed money, Lee allowed Bunnell to use his plans to make the chairs which were very popular in the area. Bunnell eventually took out a patent on the chair design in 1904. Because it was manufactured near the Adirondacks, it became known as the “Adirondack Chair.”
The style of the Adirondack Chair has changed since the first design by Thomas Lee. He used a single wooden plank for the back and seat of the first chair. Irving Wolpin made additional changes and received a patent in 1938 for his rounded back and more contoured design.
The first Adirondack chair was made from hemlock or basswood and were painted green or brown. Now, other types of wood are used. Polymers and hard contact plastics are molded to create chairs in a wide variety of brilliant colors. White is still the most popular color. Polymer chairs are much more expensive, but are durable and sturdy and will last many years. The style has expanded to include rockers, gliders, love seats, and ottomans. You can find inexpensive chairs at local discount stores, but the quality is very poor. Chairs made from wood, either painted or unpainted, are still very popular. Plans for constructing your own Adirondack chair are available online, at your local home improvement store, or at your local library. Constructing your own chair will save money, but you can also buy precut chairs and are easily assembled.
The name, the style, and the colors may have changed, but the Adirondack remains a favorite.