Otis House

Windsor Side Chairs

Windsor chairs evolved from a long tradition of English turned furniture, making their exact date of creation nearly impossible to determine. Although the form surely existed before the 18th century, the first use of the term as applied to seating appeared during the 1720s. The chairs first became popular as a fashionable mode of garden seating, moving into homes quickly thereafter. Within a decade of the Windsor chair’s appearance in England, it was introduced to colonial America. Wealthy Philadelphians, conscious of British fashion and eager to replicate it, imported Windsor chairs for their homes and gardens. American craftsmen began to copy these English forms and, as a result, the Windsor chair-making industry spread throughout the colonies.

The practicality and comfort of Windsor chairs appealed to all levels of American society and they were used in homes, gardens, and public buildings. The Windsor chair form was also adapted to other furniture pieces such as stools, settees, and cradles and was often painted to unify the diverse woods typically used in construction, to protect the chair when used outdoors or during entertaining, and to add decoration. Many varieties of Windsor chairs were produced throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, each distinguishable by their backs. The chairs in the Otis office are of the bow-back style and features bamboo turnings, a popular design convention in the late eighteenth century.

Although the Windsor chair was popular throughout America and all levels of society, for a wealthy man like Harrison Gray Otis, it would have been associated with leisurely pursuits in gardens and gaming rooms rather than being used for entertaining in a public space in a grand home such as his.

Unknown maker
Massachusetts, 1790-1825
Pine, ash