History of Adirondack Chairs


Nothing says summer to us like sitting in a comfortable, rustic, Adirondack chair soaking in the sun. We particularly like the vintage chairs featured in this post for their solid oak construction.

But how did Adirondack chairs come about? How did they become ubiquitous and known under different names in New York State (Adirondack), Ontario (Muskoka) and Quebec (Laurentian)?

The first Adirondack chair was created by Thomas Lee around 1903. He was searching for comfortable outdoor furniture for his cottage in Westport, NY, in the Adirondack mountains region. He worked with a local carpenter named Henry Bunnell who immediately saw an opportunity and patented the design in 1905. Bunnell called them Westport chairs (where they were patented) and constructed them out of hemlock or hickory. Lee never received any profit from his design but it is generally known that Bunnell copied the design from Lee.

“According to legend, Lee created several prototypes for chairs made out of just  eleven pieces of knot-free wood, all from the same tree. His family- all 22 of them- tested each chair, and ultimately decided upon the gentle recline and wide armrests of what we now know as the Adirondack chair.”*

Over the years, improvements were made, including using slats instead of single slabs for the seat and back. In the 1940’s, the first mail-order kits appeared and the chairs’ popularity took off. It is not known how the first Adirondack  chair came to Canada; it is generally thought that someone from New York with a cottage here brought it over.

There is virtually no difference between an Adirondack, Muskoka or Laurentian chair. They all feature the same short legs, wide arms, high backs and slanted seats, although some might argue slight changes in height and width.

Whatever we want to call it, the Adirondack chair is the quintessential image of summer. So kick back and enjoy! Isn’t that why we adore our summers?

(Source: Quick History: Adirondack Chairs, 6.10.10- Apartment Therapy)

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