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Thomasville, NC (1927).
Thomasville, NC (1927).

World's Largest Chair: The Battle Rages

In a nation where more and more jobs have shifted to sitting, it makes sense that America recognizes the necessity of big chairs as high profile landmarks.

Various Adirondacks, Muskokas, and other wooden eight-foot wonders routinely pop up in parking lots as photo-ops -- but what of the Super Chairs, the ones that are 15, 20, 30 feet tall? And who has the biggest? No punches have been pulled in a century-long melee trying to answer that question.

Early Skirmishes

The first shot in the World's Largest Chair battle was fired in 1905, when Gardner, Massachusetts, erected a Mission chair 12 feet tall. Word got around. Eventually a rebel yell came from the reconstructed South; Thomasville, North Carolina -- which claimed to be the "Furniture and Hosiery Capital of the World" -- built a chair 13 feet, 6 inches tall in 1927.

Up went eyebrows in Gardner; pride was hurt. With Yankee pluck the self-proclaimed "Chair City of the World" countered with a 15-foot Mission chair in 1928. Then, as an exclamation point on its claim, Gardner tore down the Mission and replaced it with a 16-foot Colonial Hitchcock in 1935.

Bennington, VT Ladderback (1991).
Bennington, VT Ladderback (1991).

Chairs in Conflict

World War II briefly waylaid the giant chair battle, but Thomasville fired the first postwar shot in 1948, when it unveiled an 18-foot Duncan Phyfe, placing it on a 12-foot pedestal. Thomasville encouraged neighboring High Point to build the world's largest bureau, and convinced Vice-President Lyndon Johnson to sit in its big chair. Built of concrete and steel, the Thomasville Duncan Phyfe still stands, the World's Oldest Largest Chair.

Other towns quickly entered the scrum. Bennington, Vermont, put up a 19-foot Ladderback in the 1950s (It was torn down in 2000). Washington, DC, bested Bennington's chair with a Duncan Phyfe six inches taller. Morristown, Tennessee, surpassed DC's chair with a green Recliner made of sheet metal -- a behemoth 20 feet tall that could seat ten across. But by 1962, it was gone.

Gardner, still fighting, built a Haywood-Wakefield 20 feet, 7 inches tall, ostensibly to honor the Bicentennial. Ten feet wide and nine feet deep, it was, for a year, the world's largest.

Free Enterprise, Lofty Heights

Wingdale NY's chair, 25-feet high (1991).
Wingdale NY's chair, 25-feet high (1991).

Private enterprise stepped into the fray and escalated the fight. A lumber store named Pa's Woodshed in Binghamton, New York, built a 24 foot, 9-inch Ladderback, recognized as the World's Largest by Guinness World's Records in 1979 -- only to have it surpassed that same year by a huge Fireside Chair, 25 feet tall, built by the Hunt Country Furniture Co. in Wingdale, New York.

And then the South rose again. In 1981 Leonard "Sonny" Miller built a 33-foot office chair next to his furniture store in Anniston, Alabama. Made of ten tons of steel, it held the World's Largest title for over two decades despite a valiant second effort by the Hunt Country Furniture Co., which tore down its Wingdale chair and replaced it with a 30-footer in 1996. Not quite big enough, it was destroyed in a storm in 2001.

Then, in late 2003, a company from Italy of all places erected a 40-foot-tall, 24-ton chair in the parking lot of the L.A. Mart in Los Angeles. California bragged that its European mercenary was the Largest Chair in America, which indeed it was. Two imposing chairs had emerged in the young EU: 1997's "Broken Chair," a 39-ft. tall work in Geneva, Switzerland for Handicap International, missing a leg by design; and a 65-ft. tall chair in 1995 in Manzano, Italy, a chair-making capital, proclaimed the world' largest.

Giant Route 66 Rocker, 42-ft. high (2008).
Giant Route 66 Rocker.

The seat of power had moved to a foreign land -- until the USA got redemption from an unexpected source....

Rocking Chairs: The Pendulum Swings

Rocking chairs remained noncombatants in the Big Chair War until 1990, when a 21-footer was built in Penrose, Colorado. It remained tops in its specialized field until the 21st century -- and then rockers suddenly rocketed for the sky. The Star of Texas, unveiled in 2002, stands 26 feet tall. Big John, built in 2004 in Franklin, Indiana, reaches 34 feet.

Then in 2008 -- the same year that a 34-foot log chair was built in Deadwood, South Dakota, and a 35-foot rocking chair in Gulfport, Mississippi -- a mighty rocker of steel was unveiled, 42 feet tall, built along Route 66 in Fanning, Missouri. And then in 2015, all previous USA records were shattered when a wooden rocker, towering 56.5 feet high, was topped-off in Casey, Illinois. The Largest Chair in America was once again American-made.

But it's not the Largest in the World. That prize still belongs to the Italians in Manzano.

Also see: World's Largest Chest of Drawers

Big Chairs

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