What do you see when you think of an Adirondack chair? I am a visual person, so I see a mountain view where I can look down into the valley and up to the peak of the next mountain. Of course it is wooded, a few birds flitting around and the sunshine is warm on my skin, but a cool breeze keeps it from being hot. Here on the mountainside are two chairs that we know as Adirondack chairs. They have a broad seat that is tilted somewhat downward at the back. The back is made of wide planks of wood, and tilts back just enough that you can tip your head back and relax; perhaps even take a little nap. The arms are wide, giving plenty of space to rest your arms or even your glass of iced tea. For me, this is the picture of tranquility. Perhaps your view would be of the waves crashing on the shore, or looking over the wheat fields on some midwestern farm. Can you believe that an item that evokes as many thoughts of peace could have actually been an item of dissension?
According to the history of Adirondack chairs, a gentleman by the name of Thomas Lee had a beautiful and peaceful view at his lake house on Lake Champlain, NY. He wanted to build a comfortable and sturdy chair so that he and his family could enjoy their view in comfort. After trying many versions of his original design, he hit upon the chair that was just perfect.
Mr. Lee had a friend named Harry Bunnell, who was a carpenter. Mr Bunnell had a woodworking shop, but not much work to do in the winter, so he offered to build the chairs so be sold. It sounded like a win-win situation, so Mr Lee agreed.
The chairs sold faster than Bunnell could build them. He realized that he was really onto something, so he proceeded to have the design patented with the name the Westport Plank Chair, without telling Mr. Lee. For another 20 years, Bunnell continued to manufacture these chairs.
What became of Mr. Lee? I don’t really know, but he never did try to claim his rights to the patent. Perhaps he had enough peace within him from the beautiful lake views with his family in his comfortable chair that he did not want to be bothered with “friends” who would steal from him.