History of the Adirondack Chair

The Adirondack chair was specifically designed for people to lounge around for hours, having a high back and wide armrests. Thomas Lee invented the Adirondack chair in 1903, originally calling it the Westport chair.

The chair was named after the small New York town located on the shores of Lake Champlain. Lee used 11 pieces of wood to create the iconic Adirondack chair, but for many years he wouldn’t get the credit he deserved for its creation.

Carpenter Henry Bunnell asked Lee for advice on how to earn additional income during the winter of 1903. Lee told Bunnell to build and sell the same Westport chair design. The chair became an instant hit, and Bunnell applied for a patent on the chair in April 1904 and claim full credit for its design. Bunnell developed a successful business in making the Westport chair that lasted for another 20 years.

Irving Wolpin saw the chair’s appeal and obtained a patent for it in 1938 after making some design changes. Wolpin’s changes to the chair included rounding out the back and contouring the seat to make it more comfortable. One of the key features of the Westport chair, the slanted seat, was kept by Wolpin, but along with the armrests it would be constructed out of smaller slats.

Though it was called the Westport chair for many years, the chair would eventually be called the Adirondack chair. Thomas Lee originally created the chair near the Adirondack Mountains, which are located in northeastern New York.

Best Materials

There are four common types of Adirondack chair materials. Teak wood is one such common material.

Teak wood weathers more favorably than pine, bamboo, oak or wicker. It resists wind, water and rust, and is safe to stay outside throughout the year. However, it must be rubbed down on a regular schedule to avoid developing a silver patina.

Aluminum is a tough and lightweight metal that also offers great durability and easy maintenance. This metal is extremely resistant to rust and water. However, since it is lightweight, it is vulnerable to strong wind gusts and it may not have the level of comfort you look for in a lawn chair.

Injection molded plastic is a cost-efficient material that is good for short-term outdoor furniture. It’s easy to keep clean by applying only dish soap and it resists water and rust, but it’s also vulnerable to high winds. It is permeated with UV stabilized colors, but is prone to fading and weathering over time.

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) lumber is an expensive material, but it offers the type of comfort and durability you seek. HDPE is highly weather-resistant and tough, and it can be cleaned with soap and a wet cloth. This completely recyclable material has the same texture as plastic milk jugs.

Beautiful, Reliable Chairs

The average Adirondack chair weighs around 50 pounds, and most Adirondack chairs are made out of corrosive-resistant stainless steel hardware. Today you can choose to either have Wolpin’s curved back design or Lee’s original straight plank design for your chair.

Whether you place it on your backyard patio or next to a swimming pool, you can be assured that the Adirondack chair will be both beautiful in appearance and reliable in endurance for many years to come.

Image credit: Adirondacks & Rockers, Terra Outdoor