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Where on earth did the Adirondack Chair come from, and why is it so popular?

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

The Adirondack chair is the hallmark of a well-designed country patio or garden. Adirondack chairs are at home beside a fire pit or the local pub, invoking the spirit of summer all year round. The high slatted back and spacious seat with the front angled higher than the rear makes it more comfortable than most other lawn chairs on the market. But where did this unique construction originate?

Thomas Lee wanted to create a sturdy outdoor chair that could maintain balance on the rocky, rutted slopes of the mountains.

These durable wooden garden chairs were first invented around 1903 by designer Thomas Lee while at his summer home at Lake Champlain, Westport, Massachusetts. Westport is a small town, part of the Adirondack Mountain state parks. The mountains were named in 1838 by Ebenezer Emmons, a New York geologist exploring in the upstate region, borrowing from an Iroquois word meaning “eater of tree bark,” a derisive term bestowed by them upon a neighbouring Algonquin tribe. But I digress.

Lee wanted to create a sturdy outdoor chair that could maintain balance in the rocky, rutted slopes of the mountains, something that could defy shifting sand or steep outcrops. His design included flat wooden boards forming a wide, low base and reclining back.

two Adirondack chairs by a firepit
Adirondack chairs are at home by a firepit

Lee’s acquaintance, carpenter Harry Bunnell, was offered the opportunity to build the wooden garden recliners chairs to this design as a means of income. He began construction from native Hemlock sold from his shop, patenting his slightly narrower design in 1904. The outdoor wooden chairs became rapidly popular throughout the east coast region. Bunnell soon adapted the chair for favoured use in tuberculosis sanatoriums, chosen for the upright 35-degree reclining position which is proven comfortable for convalescing patients. The wide-spread armrests and flowing contours were found helpful in expanding the user’s chest making breathing easier and encouraging healthy relaxation. However these were still not the beloved Adirondack chairs we know and love today.

Only in 1938 did Iving Wolpin’s re-written patent design include the modification of slatted, fan-shaped backs. Lordship Chairs offer you two height choices for the back, the higher one being more comfortable for taller customers.

Manufacturers today most often replicate the Wolpin Adirondack chair using smaller slats and a gently rounded back, but you can find multiple versions in varying designs made from everything from recycled plastic to charcoal composite to silver mesh. At Lordship Chairs we stick with sustainably sourced Larch wood for our Adirondack chairs which gently silver as they age. They are easy to care for and allow your own choice of stain or varnish, should you prefer this.

Do you want to claim some relaxation to be delivered to your own garden? Visit our shop. You’ll spend hours just breathing in the peace of nature, watching the birds build their nests, and getting away from the rush and bustle of daily chores. The wide-angle seat easily accommodates a child or a pet in your lap, while Granny occupies the second seat with her knitting! Put your feet up on our matching footrests, and the teapot on our garden coffee table, and you’ve got it made in the shade!

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