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History of Adirondack Chair

At Manchester Wood we pride ourselves on recreating and honoring the history of Adirondack chairs. Our hardwood folding Adirondack chair is it’s refinement.

History of Adirondack Chair

Manchester Wood’s first Adirondack Chair, 1984-85.

The History of Adirondack ChairThe first Adirondack chair was designed by Thomas Lee while vacationing in Westport, New York, in the Adirondack Mountains in 1903. Needing outdoor chairs for his summer home, he tested his early efforts on his family. After arriving at a final design for a “Westport plank chair,” he offered it to a carpenter friend in Westport in need of a winter income, Harry Bunnell. Bunnell saw the commercial potential of such an item being offered to Westport’s summer residents, and apparently without asking Lee’s permission filed for and received a U.S. patent in 1905. Bunnell manufactured hemlock plank “Westport chairs” for the next twenty years, painted in green or medium dark brown, and individually signed by him.

Originally the chair was called the Westport Plank Chair, but was renamed the Adirondack Chair after the mountain range Westport is located in; the Adirondacks.

The style has also been adapted to other types of furniture, such as swing gliders and love seats.

(via Wikipedia)

The History of our Adirondack Chair … father-in-law to current President and Founder of Manchester Wood, Clifford Pierce – a decorated veteran as well as an entrepreneur – he had already founded a successful steel-crafting business prior to founding his woodworking company – Cliff became interested in Adirondack chairs during summers spent with his family at their lakefront camp on Lake George in New York, just a few country miles from “the mill” (Manchester Wood).

While taking boat rides on the lake, “the boys” and Cliff would pass by various old family estates that had Adirondack chairs on their property, set by campfire pits or on sprawling front yards and, most iconically, on docks. There were many styles and most appeared aged and worn, falling apart over just a couple seasons. Cliff reckoned it was because they were made out of pine and scrap crates, which were the common materials used for Adirondack chairs at the time.

History of Adirondack Chair

Jose assembling Adirondack chair seats at our present facility in Granville, NY. At the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains.

After learning of Cliff’s interest in the chairs, a friend and neighbor at the lake happily gave Cliff one of his Adirondack chairs to study and reference dimensions. Thus began Manchester Wood’s development of the Adirondack chair.

The timing was excellent. Previously, Manchester Wood had focused on making smaller wood products, such as towel holders and spice racks, but during the early 1980s the company transitioned to producing larger furniture pieces. The Adirondack chair fit in perfectly with this transition.

The chair given to Cliff was extra large and made out of softwood. The design had a lot of support pieces and very wide arms. The back of the chair was comprised of many narrow slats. It was also very low, so when you slid down into the seat, it was comfortable, but hard to get out of!

So Cliff and company set about improving on the design. Early on it was decided that the chairs should be foldable. Easy storage was a key feature in Cliff’s mind as he had seen too many prematurely weathered and dilapidated chairs on the docks and shores of Lake George. Unlike bulkier designs that were a hassle to move and took up too much space to store inside easily, the folding design did not take up as much space and encouraged customers to keep the chairs inside over the winter.

The initial design developed by Cliff had slats that were all the same width, including the seat legs. The chair featured narrower arms in an effort to keep the price competitive with similar wood furniture pieces imported by foreign manufacturers. When all was said and done, Cliff had reviewed over 10 different styles of Adirondack Chairs from the Lake George area.

The Adirondack Chair designed by Cliff was introduced at the Chicago Housewares Trade Show in 1984 where it received phenomenal success. Through the years we’ve continued to refine and improve on Cliff’s ideals with our Adirondack Folding Chair that’s available today.

{ 2 comments… add one }

  • Susan P. May 16, 2014, 4:38 am

    Thanks for the blog post about the history of the Adirondack chair. I never knew the history of it.

  • Jamini May 18, 2014, 3:46 pm

    I like Adirondack chairs, but agree they are hard to get out of and can cut off leg circulation. After reading this blog post I am more excited to order one of your chairs since you worked to solve this problem. Thanks for the history and the details about what besides handmade quality and being USA made makes yours better.

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