The Adirondack chair is an American classic. Over a hundred years old, we love it for its comfort, versatility, and classic style that fits in any backyard, deck, or patio. But how did the Adirondack chair first come about?
The First Adirondack Chair
Located in upstate New York, the Adirondack mountains are known for their beautiful peaks and fall foliage.
One summer in 1903, Thomas Lee took a trip with his family to their cottage in the quaint town of Westport, New York. In the early 1900s, furniture was made mostly in the Victorian style, stuffy and uncomfortable to sit in for long periods of time. Lee devised a new chair, one that would be comfortable to sit in for hours at a time. After extensive testing from family members, he settled on the best design.
The new chair had a slanted back, a pitched seat, and long, wide armrests that would make it easier to get comfortable in the chair. Lee’s chair was an instant hit, according to a local general store.
Later, Lee gave the chair design to his friend, Harry Bunnell, a woodworker, in order to help him out during the slower winter months. Bunnell saw potential in the chair; in 1905, he filed a patent for the adirondack chair, calling it the “Westport Chair.” Unfortunately, Lee was not informed of the patent application until the patent had already been approved! Bunnell continued to create his Westport Chairs for the next 25 years.
Over time, the Adirondack chair has continued to change its shape and form while retaining its distinguishing slanted back and wide arms. Notably, the large one-piece back became a number of slats, and the back leg became a narrower piece of wood rather than a large slab.
The Adirondack Chair Today
Of course, the materials used in Adirondack chairs have changed as well. In the beginning (and still to this day), Adirondacks were made of wood. Today, most wooden Adirondacks are made with pressure-treated pine, as it does a better job of resisting rot than most traditional wood. Cheaper Adirondack chairs are made with injection molded pieces of plastic.
Perhaps the most well suited material for an Adirondack chair is poly lumber, made from recycled milk jugs. Poly is more durable than real wood and doesn’t rot, splinter, or crack. Monarch sells poly Adirondack chairs from several well-known manufacturers, including Wildridge and Breezesta.