Many people consider an Adirondack chair as “just a chair”; however, the Adirondack chair is much more than a place to perch. It symbolizes vacation, simplicity, and peace. History of Adirondack chairs convey the message of cottage country, long summers childhood days when we spent long hours by the lake’s shores and watched the sunset over the water. The chairs, undoubtedly, create a poetic feeling in our minds and memories.
While people often know the Adirondack chairs by their name, one can easily recognize them if they come across one, as they are famous for outdoor lounging. The chair’s beauty is in the simplicity of its design—slats of wood form the beck rest and the slanted seat, which forms the back leg support. The armrests are flat and have a wide board that is perpendicular to the front legs. Because of the sloped seats, these chairs are perfect for lounging and napping.
The history of Adirondack chairs get the name from the Adirondack Mountain range of New York. According to a legend, the chairs received their name from the guest of a convalescent home for tuberculosis patients in the Adirondack mountain range who enjoyed sitting in the chair and breathe the fresh air.
Mr. Thomas Lee earns the entire credit of creating what we presently call the “Adirondack chair.” Mr. Lee belonged to a wealthy family in Massachusetts. He often preferred vacationing in the Westport town of New York, where they owned a home on Lake Champlain located at the heart of the Adirondack Mountains Range. The little house served as a frequent destination for their getaways.
Once the family headed for a vacation in their house in Lake Champlain in 1903. He then decided that the chairs were not comfortable enough and set out to design the “perfect chair” for outdoor lounging that would fit even for the rugged terrain of the mountain range. He wanted a chair that would be sturdy, comfortable, and maintain its balance on everything right from the sandy ground to highly steeped hills.
After started trying several prototypes with the help of his family members. After three years, Mr. Thomas Lee revealed his magnum opus- a high back, slanted wide chair with wide armrests. The look and feel of the design are what we see today as the Adirondack chair. Moreover, he called it a “Westport Chair” and not the Adirondack chair, as we know them today.
After having the design in his mind for the “perfect lounging chair,” Mr. Lee visited his carpenter friend Harry Bunnell in his local carpentry shop. The carpenter found the opportunity luck, as he was looking for making some new designs to sell and make some extra income during the winter. As a loyal friend, Thomas offered his design, of which Mr. Bunnell started making the replicas and posted them for sale throughout the community. Soon the Westport chair became immensely popular, at least in the surrounding community. Later, he modified the design, made the model a bit narrower, and patented his Westport chair’s design in the summer of 1904. So here, the history of Adirondack chairs continues.
For the next couple of decades, Bunnell continued to develop a successful chair-making business and left his signature on each chair. These chairs were highly durable and served ultimate comfort, which led to their vast popularity. However, with the passing of the years, the design started changing into today’s Adirondack chair.
The Modern Adirondack Chairs
Both the Adirondack and Westport chairs feature extra-wide armrests, slanted seats, and high backs. Today the seat and back of the Adirondack chair consist of slats of lined-up wood, while the designers build the Westport chairs from solid pieces of unknotted timber, which made the design more challenging to construct. Due to the immense popularity of the modern designs, the Westport chairs earned the name Adirondack chairs.
Irving Wolpin of New Jersey in 1938 acquired a patent for making further changes in the design. He describes them as the “Lawn Chairs,” which consisted of slanted seats, wide armrests of the Westport chairs. According to the new design of the chairs, manufacturers constructed them out of smaller slats with a round back and contoured seats. Today, Wolpin’s design is the most popular replica of the Adirondack chair.
Adirondack chairs have a long history and carry a unique blend of art and function. The charts experienced several changes in the design. Today, manufacturers build these chairs from resin and recycled plastics instead of wood. Due to their aura, the Adirondack chair is perfect for outdoor décor and often placed underneath an oak tree, on the front porch, or facing the water at the vacation home.