As summer comes about, it is time once again to be bombarded by advertisements for that ever famous coffee-house staple: the Adriondeck chair. These chairs are characterized by their low, squatty appearance, yet amazing comfort and grace all year round. They are particularly known for their high and wide fan-type back.
While this chair was once a regional favorite of those living in New York, it has become a summertime staple throughout the United States, with people loving and enjoying its comfort from New York to New Orleans. People are immediately attracted to this chair for the aesthetic quality it brings, along with the comfort it provides. While a favorite by far, many people don’t know how the Adriondeck chair got its name, or the rise to fame that it took.
This Adriondeck chair was built at the forefront of a new century, with people excited about what new technology would bring for tomorrow. Except instead of going forward with these new things, many were taking a step back and enjoying the finer things in life. The first known chair was built in 1903, by an American pioneer who would unknowingly change the way Americans consider their summer lounging for the rest of time.
The original Adriondeck chair was built by a New York man named Thomas Lee. Lee had a summer home in the Adriondack Mountain region of New York (the namesake of the chair itself), and was looking for a way to enjoy the summer air in comfort. Through a series of several trial and error experiments putting together different types of prototype chairs, Lee came up with a design not too dissimilar from what we now know today as the Adriondeck chair. This first crude attempt at putting a chair together from scratch was known for similar traits that we know the Adriondack chair for now: the tall, fan-shaped back, and wide arm rest.
The Adriondeck chair had soon become quite popular, after perfecting the first prototype models. Demand soon became high for these chairs, and Thomas couldn’t handle the demand by himself. Lee offered the design and production opportunity to a local carpenter by the name of Harry Bunnell. Bunnell was attracted to the idea, as he needed a way to make money throughout the snowy winter months when his services could not be rendered. Lee approached him to build the chairs, as they were selling quite well for the time. To start, it worked well for both parties: the original agreement called for Bunnell to build the chairs, and split the money with Lee for creating the original design of the chair to begin with.
As the Adriondeck chairs became mass produced, they were soon shipped across the country, to those who could afford them. This resulted in several different copycat designs, produced by other regional builders throughout the nation. History tells us that Bunnell took it upon himself to file a sole patent on the chair, including the name and design. The original builder of the chair, Thomas Lee, was not named as a co-applicant, removing him all patent protections of his chair. The United States Patent Office approved Bunnell’s application (as he was the first producer of record of these chairs), and patent number 794,444 belonged solely to him and the design of the Adriondeck chair. Bunnell now possessed the sole right to profit for the chair, and continued to manufacture it for over 20 years.
Today, Adriondeck chairs can be found nearly everywhere across the United States – from coffee houses to front porches. And with their comfort and aesthetic pleasure, they bring charm and class wherever they go across the United States, built with the heart and spirit of the American worker.
Joe Cortez is a freelance writer with diverse interests including home and garden, outdoor furniture and backyard living, with a particular interest in Americana Outdoor Furniture As a media professional, his work has been featured on CNN and the CBS Evening News. He writes for In Style Patio and The North Cedar Company