Sit, American Style
By Molly Millett, Pioneer Press
"The Adirondack chair is an American icon," says Craig Gilborn, former director of the Adirondack Museum in New York state. "It's like the hotdog and the American flag. The Adirondack chair is a symbol of summertime and easy living and lemonade and fourth of July parades."
It's also trendy.
The chair - all angles and Americana - is experiencing a rebirth, popping up in bright colors like lime green and red and blueberry, sold everywhere from web based sites to artisans' studios.
"Adirondack chairs have a very nostalgic feel and people like that," says Paula Thornton-Greear, "you can easily picture yourself sitting in a chair with a glass of lemonade while resting in the shade."
The exact origins of the Adirondack chair are a mystery, says Gilborn, but they seem to be rooted in the lesser-known but better documented Westport chair, which was produced in the early 20th century in the Lake Champlain town of the Adirondack Mountains in New York State.
The Westport chair had the raked back and broad armrests we now consider hallmarks of the Adirondack, but it required solid planks for its back and seat and was heavier and more amply proportioned - and thus more comfortable - than the slatted Adirondack, says Gilborn.
But, perhaps because it was cheaper to construct, the Adirondack was everywhere by the 1940s.