There is a little town on the edge of Lake Champlain, by the Adirondack Mountains, called Westport. The first Adirondack chairs were named after this town - Westport Chairs. In Blue Mountain Lake, New York, the Adirondack Museum proudly preserves the Adirondack chair's interesting history.
Trial and error
Each summer in Westport, New York, a man named Thomas Lee enjoyed time with his large family. Stony Sides, the home this family occupied, had a shortage of patio furniture and Lee felt he could not find relaxation. In 1903, Thomas Lee began nailing boards together in his front lawn, crafting new chair designs for his 22-member family to sample. History proves that with all of this feedback, Lee created a unique new chair with a slanted seat and well-recognized spacious armrests. Lee's family whole-heartedly approved.
Thomas Lee knew a carpenter who owned a modest shop in town. Lee showed his new creation to the carpenter, Harry Bunnell. Bunnell predicted that the yearly residents flocking to the region during the summer would really appreciate Lee's chair. Although Lee originally intended the Adirondack chairs to make his family's summer stay at Stony Sides more pleasant, Bunnell saw the potential for great profit. In 1904, Bunnell requested a patent, calling the Adirondack chair the Westport chair. In the summer of 1905, and without Lee's knowledge, Harry Bunnell secured the patent for what would become one of the most recognized furniture pieces ever.
Harry Bunnell's Westport Adirondack chair became popular all around the region. Over a twenty year period, Bunnell experimented with some variations on the original, including child Adirondack chairs and tete de tetes. Bunnell's Adirondack chairs were made of hemlock, painted in either dark brown or green, and signed by the carpenter himself. Today, Bunnell's original chairs come at a hefty price, about $1,200 each (Bunnell sold them for around $4.00).
The Adirondack story continues
The Adirondack chair, as the Westport chair has come to be known (named for the region instead of the town), is at the core of today's favorite outdoor American furniture. The Adirondack style now embraces Adirondack benches and Adirondack rockers. This beautiful Adirondack furniture, so rich in heritage, will easily be a favorite for years to come.