The Westport – Adirondack Chair
has become a fixture for relaxing outdoors thanks to Thomas Lee at his residence in Westport NY.
Needing porch chairs for his large group of family and friends, Lee used a single plank of local hemlock and designed a comfortable chair with slanted back and wide arm rests to hold drinks and food.
Several manufacturers today say the slanted back and seat were to allow guests to sit upright on Lee’s steep Adirondack hillside. This statement is nonsense!. Lee’s houses were not on a steep mountain. If placed with seat level, the arm rests then would slope down hill at about 45 degrees, and all the drinks would slide off!
Harry C. Bunnell, a friend, hunting buddy, and local wood worker began producing the chairs in his Westport wood shop.
Harry Bunnell, applied in 1904 for a patent for an “Adirondack chair.” US Patent #794,777 was granted June 18 1905. Bunnell began making them for sale. He has been called in various stories as Burnell, Burrell also. The patent application has his name and signature.
The Patent describes a chair with “solid, parallel, approximately diamond-shaped side pieces.” The seat is slanted down at the rear, and the back slab is at right angle to it.
This “Westport Chair” as known today has parallel side pieces, and a flat, single board back.
Bunnell in his patent clearly states and diagram shows his “preferred” model to be used as “invalid” chair. It has a hinged seat that covers a piece with an oval hole leading to a closed compartment below. We have been unable to find one of these “potty” chairs. Anyone with info or a photo is asked to contact Bob.
Bunnell, apparently later, produced chairs with the sides/legs angled inward toward the rear. The back and arms could then be smaller, saving wood. These chairs are known as “Bunnell” type, and may have his name stamped in the top, rear of the wood back piece. Although quite valuable, they are not the actual “original” design.
Chairs with backs and seat of several slats, often curved, are now known as “Adirondack Chairs.”
Edited: Bob Carroll, April 2011. Photos © 2010 Bob Carroll
Original Lee type chair with parallel legs.
Wide parallel arms extend all the way back.
Seat and back are single slabs and wide.
As described in Bunnell patent of 1905.
Bunnell type chair, later model; These were stamped with Bunnell name.
Note leg pieces point inward at rear.
Seat and back are narrower than original as shown above.
Not as described in Bunnell patent.
Modern Adirondack Chair with curved, slatted back and seat.
Offered in various woods and painted or stained.
Also in plastics.