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How Adirondack Chairs Were Invented

Dave Wheeler/TSM
Dave Wheeler/TSM

While relaxing this summer in your Adirondack chair, maybe take a moment and think this: How were these things invented? How did they become so popular?

Back in 1903, a brave man named Thomas Lee invented this New York chair. Lee was searching in for comfortable outdoor furniture. His country cottage was located in the Adirondacks in Westport.

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.”

After designing these chairs for family, it all clicked. Money. Lee had a hunting buddy, a local carpenter named Harry Bunnell, who was in need of some off-season income. Lee showed Bunnell the chair and encouraged him to start making them. Originally sold as Westport Chairs, they were made out of hemlock or hickory. Nowadays the chairs are typically made out of pine and other inexpensive woods. You can even buy them in various types of plastic too.

Just think, the history all started in the Adirondack parks.

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