Looking Back at the History of the Adirondack Chair


The Adirondack chair is synonymous with comfortable outdoor seating. Featuring a straight back and seat with over-sized arm rests, it’s become a staple patio accessory for countless homeowners, many of whom use these chairs on a daily basis. But like all popular home furnishings, there’s a long, rich history surrounding the Adirondack chair.


Origins of the Adirondack chair date back over a century (yes, it’s really that old). While early models were somewhat basic compared to modern-day Adirondack chair, they still possesses the same design for which these chairs are known. Manufacturers today have made numerous modifications, yet the underlying design remains the same.


 Thomas Lee, Inventor of the Adirondack Chair


American inventor and entrepreneur Thomas Lee is credited with inventing the world’s first Adirondack chair. While vacationing with his family in the Adirondack Mountains of New York in 1903, Lee discovered a problem: there weren’t enough chairs at his cottage to accommodate his large family. This prompted the do-it-yourself fixer to design a new type of chair that was suitable for outdoor use around his vacation cottage.


Lee began to experiment with various pieces of lumber, attempting to craft new chairs for his family of near of nearly two dozen. It took some trial and error, but he eventually designed an ultra-comfortable outdoor chair that’s now known as the Adirondack chair.


The Original Design

Reports indicate that Lee designed the original Adirondack chair to work on the uneven mountainous terrain surrounding his cottage. When placed on an uneven, sloped surface, it would remain upright without tilting over. The Adirondack chair’s back remained in a reclined state, giving it this unique characteristic. This was a huge advantage over traditional chairs, many of which would tip over when placed on sloped surfaces.


Adirondack Chair Patent


Lee’s chair was an instant hit with the members of his large family, and as a result, he took his design to a carpenter in Westport, N.Y. named Harry Bunnell. Lee asked Bunnell if he would reproduce the chair for members of his family, at which point he agreed. However, in a strange turn of events, Bunnell filed a patent for it under the new name of the “Westport Chair” without Lee’s knowledge. In 1905, patent 794,777 was awarded to Bunnell with Lee’s original chair design. Lee never attempted to dispute the patent, choosing to turn a blind eye instead — and that’s how the Adirondack chair came to be.