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Adirondack Chairs (aka Plank and Westport Chairs)

Updated on September 18, 2017

Lakeside Adirondack Chairs

Adirondack chairs complete the relaxing feel of a lakeside retreat. (Photo courtesy sxc.hu)
Adirondack chairs complete the relaxing feel of a lakeside retreat. (Photo courtesy sxc.hu)

Background of the Adirondack Chair

The Adirondack Mountains rise out of the rolling hills of the northeastern United States to form a mountain range in northeastern New York.    Numerous lakes with rocky shores and wild scenery draw tourists to the many resorts in the area.  Fishing, hunting and bird watching are popular activities, but due to strict regulations in many areas the lakes and rivers have not been overfished.  It’s a nature-lover’s and vacationer’s paradise.

One such nature-lover and vacationer designed the Adirondack chair in 1903.  Thomas Lee wanted comfortable outdoor chairs for his summer residence in the Adirondacks and came up with the design for a chair we would eventually call Adirondack chair.  At that time it was called the “Westport plank chair” for Westport, New York where Lee’s summer home was located, and for the wide planks of wood used to build the chair.  Lee’s original chair was made from a single board cut into eleven pieces of wood.  The chair had a straight back and seat set at an angle for greater comfort on the steep mountainsides of the area.  It also had wide armrests which is an integral design element of today’s Adirondack chair.

In 1905, Harry Bunnell obtained the patent for the Adirondack chair, apparently without Thomas Lee’s approval or knowledge.  Lee had taken the design to Bunnell, a local carpenter in Westport and friend of his, for Bunnell to craft the chairs.  Bunnell quickly realized the chair would be popular with the summer residents of Westport and began to produce and sell them locally.  He manufactured his Westport Chairs for twenty years.  They were all signed by him and constructed of hemlock in green or medium dark brown.

A Typical Adirondack Chair

This typical Adirondack chair is often also called a plank chair.
This typical Adirondack chair is often also called a plank chair.

The Modern Adirondack Chair

The Adirondack chair is popular worldwide, not just in the United States.  In Canada the Adirondack is called the Muskoka chair, named for the Muskoka cottage and outdoor recreation area in Ontario.  The easy design and construction of the chair makes it a popular school project around the world.  Today’s Adirondack chair maintains many of the original design elements.  The chair is angled and normally made of planks of wood, plastic or engineered wood.  Wide armrests are a hallmark of the design, making the chair popular in some restaurants for individual outdoor seating arrangements.  Plates and drinks rest easily on the arms so that tables are not necessary. 

Most stores carry Adirondack chairs.  National chain stores, such as Wal-mart and Lowes, sell plastic chairs for as little as $15 a chair.  They come in a wide range of colors including tan.  Tropical colors such as yellow, orange, pink and lime green have become very popular choices in recent years.  Wal-mart also sells an unfinished cedar model starting at $79.99.  Bed Bath & Beyond’s teak Adirondack chair is affordable at $89.99.  Amazon.com also sells red cedar Adirondack chairs starting at $89.84.

Adirondack chairs can now be found in a variety of sizes, including smaller ones for kids.  See All Children’s Furniture for a good selection of maple ones.  The Adirondack chair has also been modified into an adjustable chair, the adjustability in the back similar to a poolside lounge chair.  Accessories popular with the chair are the Adirondack ottoman, often found in matching colors to the chair.  Adirondack tables can also be found, many of them foldable.  They appear to be simple wood plank tables with the plank design of the chair.

Adirondack chairs provide a comfortable chair to relax in, perfect for mountainside summer homes or on an outdoor patio.  The chair’s simple design guarantees that any DIYer can build the chair for his personal use.  The addition of Adirondack chairs to an outdoor living area brings a relaxing beauty to any back yard.

Adirondack Chairs at Sunset

Whether lakeside, in the mountains, on the beach or in the backyard, the Adirondack chair exemplifies the relaxed feeling of being on vacation. (Photo courtesy sxc.hu)
Whether lakeside, in the mountains, on the beach or in the backyard, the Adirondack chair exemplifies the relaxed feeling of being on vacation. (Photo courtesy sxc.hu)

Other Outdoor Hubs

I love the outdoors and spending time in my backyard with my family.  How about you?  Leave me a comment if you'd like, or visit one of my outdoor hubs listed below.  As always, rates are very welcome!

How to Extend Your Concrete Patio with Pavers

How to Maintain Concrete Patios, Driveways and Walkways

Using Landscape Stones

Philippe Park - For History, For Fun

© 2010 Cristina Vanthul

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    • jesusmyjoy profile image

      Betty Bolden 

      6 years ago from Bucyrus Ohio

      great hub

    • Terrabound profile image

      Terrabound 

      7 years ago from Spring, TX

      Great article! It's definitely one of the best designs to come out of the early 1900s. What's cool is, you can now get these in recycled plastic which is made of over 90% recycled plastic (milk jugs, for example). The quality is just as good if not better.

    • cvanthul profile imageAUTHOR

      Cristina Vanthul 

      8 years ago from Florida

      It does look familiar, doesn't it, Paula? I love that photo! Just makes me want to sit out there and drink a glass of lemonade.

      Thanks for reading, Tony. Glad you enjoyed. I love these chairs! They are the perfect backyard relaxing furniture possible.

    • tonymac04 profile image

      Tony McGregor 

      8 years ago from South Africa

      I have often seen these chairs in South Africa and had not given their history a thought, to be honest. Now I know about them and what they are called! Thanks for sharing this interesting history.

      Love and peace

      Tony

    • PaulaK profile image

      Paula Kirchner 

      8 years ago from Austin. Texas

      I think I have been to that lake and have seen a row of Adirondack chairs lined along the shore. Dejavu! Thanks for the great hub!

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