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American Made Wood Furniture, Top Posts

The Legacy of the Adirondack Chair and the Rebirth in Local Family Business

June 27, 2016

The Adirondack region is a vast unique wilderness that people visit to experience the centuries-old tradition of outdoor exploration and adventure. Whether you come to hike and breathe the clean mountain air, explore the lakes region or take in the many small villages each with their own unique flare you may notice a common distinctly identifiable item… Distinct Adirondack Furniture.

The story of how this iconic centuries old design came about is true Americana.

The first Adirondack chair was designed by Thomas Lee in 1903 at the large summer retreat he and his family frequented each summer, a large camp located in Westport, New York, on the banks of Lake Champlain. Lee was a tinkerer. He sought to create outdoor furniture for him and his family for their retreat that was rugged yet comfortable.

All summer long he worked on the design, adjusting the angles, using his family members as his test until he was satisfied. Lee arrived at a design known as the “Westport plank chair”. It doesn’t appear that he had any intention to manufacture the design. At this point they were nothing more than homemade family chairs.

Enter Harry Bunnell a carpenter friend and hunting companion to Lee. As the legend goes, while hunting together in the Autumn of 1903 Bunnell mention that he was in need of winter income. Lee’s (condensed) reply – “Why don’t you make and sell some of those big chairs?” So Lee offered up his design to Bunnell probably thinking he had helped solve his friends’ winter income dilemma. Bunnell began building his version of Lee’s chairs out of hemlock or basswood and staining them in green or medium dark brown. The residents and visitors of Westport fell in love with the design so much that Bunnell was challenged to keep pace with the demand.  In early 1904 (minus Lee’s permission) Bunnell filed for a patent (No. 794,777) on “his” chair design naming it the Westport Plank Chair.

Cliff Pierce - Manchester Wood

Cliff Pierce poses at his wrought iron factory in the 80’s in Upstate New York.

Flash forward sixty years to another tinkerer, a fast-rising businessman Cliff Pierce from Walden, New York.

Pierce had made his way into the Lake George area, through a unique opportunity to purchase a portion of an unkempt lakefront neighborhood for a bargain price. Continue Reading…