The Bear Chair Company Ltd. originated in December 1987, as a result of a home woodworking shop in a Northern Ontario basement. Its founder, David Wright, saw a potential in the classic Muskoka/Adirondack Chair as a marketable product if offered in a ready to assemble form. That same year he produced one hundred chairs and made his first sale to five Beaver Lumber stores in southern Ontario. By the next year two part time workers were hired.
Sales grew both nationally and internationally over the next five years. Western red cedar was introduced to the growing line of products as a compliment to the white pine already offered. In 1991, Al Decloe accepted partnership into the company, bringing extensive sales and management experience with him.
The Bear Chair now operates out of a 15,000 square foot plant in South River, ON with an additional 25,000 square foot warehouse for additional production and storage. Our products have been exported all over the world, including Holland, Germany, Belgium, England, Luxembourg, Spain, Portugal, Australia and Japan. The company also operates a warehouse in New York to service the steadily increasing U.S market.
The Bear Chair has proudly become one of the largest
manufacturers of this style of Furniture in Canada.
HOW IT ALL STARTED
A Muskoka Chair, or Adirondack Chair as our neighbours to the south call it, is a simple chair
made of wood or plastic, generally used outdoors.
This chair brings forth memories of lazy afternoons on the lake at the family cottage or cabin. It harkens back to those halcyon days of summer, always in the back of our minds ready to be brought to the forefront at the first hint of spring. But where did this iconic chair come from? Whose Idea was it to slap together a bunch of lumber and build this chair? Was it in the "Muskokas"? Was it in the "Adirondacks"? What really happened back in the day?
The original Adirondack chair wasn't even called an Adirondack then! It was made with eleven pieces of wood, cut from a single board, with a straight back and seat. It also featured wide armrests. These became the hallmark of the Adirondack chair.
As far as we can determine from our research, the first Adirondack chair was designed in 1903. Thomas Lee was vacationing in Westport , New York, in the Adirondack Mountains and needed outdoor chairs for his summer home. He tested his early efforts on his family and after arriving at a final design for a "Westport Plank Chair," he offered it to a carpenter friend in Westport in need of winter income, Harry Bunnell.
Bunnell saw the commercial potential of such an item being offered to Westport's summer residents, and apparently without asking Lee's permission, filed for and received US patent #794,777 in 1905. Bunnell manufactured hemlock plank "Westport chairs" for the next twenty years, painted in green or medium dark brown, and individually signed by him.
Westport is located on Lake Champlain, about 120km south of Montreal, in New York state. From there if you look to the west you will be able to see the Adirondack Mountains. In those mountains was a convalescent home for tuberculosis patients. Here caregivers thought the chair would be perfect for guests to sit in and enjoy the recuperative powers of fresh mountain air.
Thus the term "Adirondack Chair" was born.
Over the years many changes and improvements were made, such as using slats instead of a single slab for the seat and back. Today's Adirondack chairs usually feature a rounded back and contoured seat.
In the 1940's the first mail-order kits appeared and the chair's popularity took off.
No one knows who brought the first one to Canada but it was probably someone from New York with a cottage in the Muskoka. Soon the term "Muskoka Chair" became part of our lexicon.
So what is the difference between an Adirondack Chair and a Muskoka Chair? Simply put: NOTHING. And really, does it matter? They both represent what we, on both sides of the border, have come to see as the ultimate cottage chair. So, sit down, pour yourself an ice cold beverage and don't do anything more tiring than cracking open a new book or waving to a passing boater.
The Bear Chair
19 Howard Street
South River, ON