Adirondack Chair History

Adirondack Chairs History

Anyone with a cottage is probably familar with the most iconic of cottage symbols, Adirondack Chairs, in fact, mention cottages and folks often visualize a relaxing scene involving adirondack chairs on a deck overlooking a lake nestled among some forested mountains.

Cottage Adirondack chairs have been around for a long time, originally from the early days of cottages in the Adirondack Mountains and the Muskoka Region. Which explains why in some locations adirondack chairs are called “muskoka chairs”

"adirondack chair picture"
Nothing says "cottage country" like an adirondack chair !!

Adirondack Chair History

If cottage history and Wilkipedia are right, adirondack chairs are the invention of a fella named Thomas Lee. Thomas, Tom to his buddies, was on vacation at his summer home in Westport, New York in the heart of the Adirondack Mountains in 1903.

Lee got tired of standing up looking at the lake and decided a chair was needed. So he set to work and designed one of the most popular outdoor chairs ever, and called it the “Westport Plank Chair” which quickly became one of the most popular designs of outdoor furniture known today.

Westport Plank Chair

Thomas Lee was a trusting soul, or perhaps he just didn’t care, but he gave his adirondack chair plans, at that time called the “Westport Plank Chair” to a carpenter in Westport, New York, which is located on Lake Champlain, about 120 kilometres south of Montreal, and to the east of the Adirondack Mountains.

The carpenter, Harry Bunnell, was quick to appreciate the adirondack chair design, and took out a patent on the design in 1905. For the next 20 years Bunnell sold the chairs under the Westport name. His chairs, made from hemlock wood, were sold in a green or dark brown color and all had his signature.

Westport Plank Chairs Become Adirondack Chairs

Somewhere along the way, Westport Plank Chairs became known as adirondack chairs, a reference to the adirondack mountains where Westport is located.

I read somewhere that the name change derived from Westport Plank Chairs being sold to a turberculosis sanitorium located in the Adirondacks as they were great chairs for the patients to relax on as they recuperated…maybe…there is something very recuperative about sitting in an adirondack chair overlooking a lake.

Adirondack Chairs Versus Muskoka Chairs What Is The Difference?

Much has been written and speculated about the difference between a “Muskoka Chair” and an “Adirondack Chair”. I think in the early days there may have been some slight differences in design, but the collective wisdom is that these days the terms are interchangable.

The original adirondack chairs made their way to the Muskoka cottage country region of Canada and folks there started calling them Muskoka chairs. Here is a picture of an Adirondack Chair at Big Moose Lake in the Adirondack Mountains.

While it it arguable by adirondack/muskoka chair purists that there are differences, I believe that was essentially the affect of different carpenters making the chairs and adding their own little ‘spin’ to the design. For all intents and purposes, they are all made based on the original design of the Westford Plank Chair.

My Dad made several muskoka/adirondack chairs that we still use around the camp and althought they look something like muskoka / adirondack chairs, in truth they are fairly different from the originals, but as I said, based loosely on the original design.

In Quebec Cottage country, namely around the Laurentian Mountains, adirondack chairs are referred to as “Laurentian Chairs,” or “chaises des laurentides.” So it stands to reason, you can pretty much call them whatever you want depending on where they are located, I am going to start calling ours “Lake Charlotte Chairs,” or “Chaises des Lac Charlotte”

Adirondacking As A Hobby

Apparently adirondack chairs really have a following and folks in the southern United States participate in an acvitity called, “Adirondacking” which evidentally consists of people getting together to sit in adirondack chairs…..who knew???

Build Your Own Adirondack Chair – Adirondack Chair Plans

Popular Mechanics has posted an great plan for building your own Adirondack Chair: Adirondack Chair Plans

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Adirondack Chair Photo: Sbrools – Wilkipedia Creative Commons

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