In the early 1980’s, Manchester Wood underwent great changes. The company transformed from a group of woodworkers making small gift-type products (paper towel holders, spice racks, etc.), to focus on larger furniture pieces. Since that transition some 30 years ago, Manchester Wood has become a leader in American made solid wood furniture while supplying the best lifestyle brands in the world with our brand of fine wood-crafted furniture.
Clifford Pierce, Manchester Wood’s founder had lived the American dream [read blog on Cliff here], and his success in the gift industry with Manchester Wood and his prominent steel crafting business, Pierce industries, had led him to enjoy a lakefront camp on Lake George, New York with his family most summer weekends.
While taking boat rides on the lake, “the boys” and Cliff would go by various old family estates that had Adirondack Chairs on their property, setting along campfire pits, sprawling front yards, and its most iconic placement, the 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 – the common materials used for Adirondack Chairs at the time.
It was Mr. John Oehler, one of Cliff’s neighbors at the lake and a dear friend (at that time in his early 70s, he lived to nearly 100), who provided the initial materials for the project. Mr. Oehler gave happily Cliff one of his Adirondack Chairs to take back to study it and get sizes. Thus began Manchester Wood’s development of the Adirondack Chair.
The chair was extra large, with many support pieces, and very wide arms. It was made out of softwood, and had many narrow slats in the back support. It was very low too, so when you slid down into the seat, it was comfortable… but hard to get out of!
So, Cliff, and us – the fellow woodworkers of Manchester Wood – crafted along his side as we duplicated this chair with several of us looking it over and kicking around ideas. Early on it was decided that the chairs should be foldable for easy storage to encourage customers to keep them inside over the winter instead of leaving the bulky pieces to weather the cold months outside.
We decided to develop a new outdoor furniture line with a folding chair and love seat similar to his initial idea, mixed with a few of the characteristics from Mr. Oehler’s Adirondack Chair. However, we didn’t start manufacturing the concept right away. Like any great idea, it took time. Before it was all said and done, we had reviewed about 10 different styles of Adirondack Chairs that we found throughout the Lake George area, refining our design plans as we went.
After much research and development, it was finally time to create our Adirondack Chair. The design had almost all the slats the same width, including the seat legs with narrower arms to keep the price down and to be competitive with similar wood furniture pieces manufactured and imported by foreign rivals. We initially showed it to Orvis, who are also based in Manchester, VT, our hometown, to see if they were interested in this new style of Adirondack Chairs.
They decided it wasn’t something they thought would work for them. So we pressed on, introducing the line at the Chicago Housewares Trade Show, where we had several mail order accounts show interest in it. It was at this show that we began working on Adirondack chairs with L.L. Bean, a company who had already picked up a folding camp table we designed for them at the previous show. They asked for a few changes though – to make it more traditional, with wider arms and seat legs, a tapered back, but keep that folding idea! This interaction and these changes, was the birth of our now famous Adirondack Chair that we still exclusively design for them today.
The Adirondack Chair took Manchester Wood’s craftsmanship to new heights and saw broad success, with placement all over the world. The chair helped develop Manchester Wood’s image and reputation, while growing a loyal and supportive customer base that sought out our Adirondack Chair to finish off their beach or lake house, porch or deck with the perfect touch.
We kept exploring and growing with other variations of the Adirondack Chair, for companies like Crate & Barrel, Pottery Barn, Plow and Hearth, Lands’ End. Eventually even Orvis signed on. Our chairs were photographed as far away as Africa and graced more mail-order catalog covers than we can count.
At Manchester Wood.com, we still sell our brand exclusive deluxe version of the Adirondack Chair with a contour back and waterfall front, that also folds for storage like the famous birth that derived from “Old Man” Oehler’s chair to this day.
To shop our brand exclusive deluxe version Adirondack Chair, click here.
To shop our famous L.L. Bean exclusive Adirondack Chair, click here.
Manchester Wood designs and produces quality, affordable, eco-friendly solid wood American furniture in the Green Mountains of Vermont and Adirondack foothills of New York.