History of the Adirondack Chair

The Adirondack chair is perhaps the most easily identifiable piece of outdoor furniture in North America today. Since the first Adirondack chair was built in 1903, the design has spread from its point of origin on the shores of Lake Champlain in New York to front lawns all across the country.  Nowadays, these chairs are so common that it can be easy to forget just how clever their design really easy. So, with this in mind, we’d like to take a moment to enlighten our readers about the history of these charming pieces of craftsmanship.

The chair’s beginnings are as humble as its rugged construction. A resourceful New Yorker by the name of Thomas Lee had a summer house with a beautiful view and no comfortable seating from which to enjoy it. And so, guided by his simple desire for a place to lounge, he set out to build a better lawn chair.

Lee needed a chair that was not only comfortable, but also durable. After all, New York winters can do a number on outdoor furniture. He also wanted a chair that could be built with relative ease. Hence, the Adirondack chair, which could be constructed from eleven pieces of wood all cut from the same plank. Wide armrests offered a convenient place to set beverages while a low, deep seat made for comfortable place to unwind. It was, by all accounts, a lovely chair.

Before long, Lee’s friends began to take notice of his new outdoor décor. One friend in particular, Harry Bunnell, recognized the unique appeal of Lee’s chairs. Bunnell was a carpenter by trade, so he offered to help Lee manufacture them in his shop. As orders for the chairs started to roll in, Bunnell saw an opportunity to turn a profit on the chairs. In 1904, without obtaining Lee’s permission, Bunnell applied for a patent on his friend’s design.

For the next twenty years, Bunnell had great success building the chairs and selling them under the moniker of the “Westport Plank Chair.” It’s safe to assume that by this point, Lee and Burnell weren’t getting along so well.

Eventually, Bunnell’s patent expired and a new generation of craftspeople was free to build their own versions of the iconic chairs. At Carriage House Furnishings, we even carry our very own uniquely Amish interpretation of the Adirondack chair.

Want to learn more about the outdoor furniture available at Carriage House Furnishings? Give us a call today for more information!