Did you know that what was once the world’s tallest (yes, the WORLD’S TALLEST) chair sits in Anacostia? And, is it just a strange coincidence that another large (green) chair gets all of the attention in Georgetown? (Do other American cities have multitudes of tall, oversized chairs?) What about Abraham Lincoln’s chair, located smack in the middle of the two. How do they all compare?
If not the world’s tallest, the statue of Lincoln in his chair at the Lincoln Memorial would surely win the World’s Heaviest Chair competition. Daniel Chester French sculpted the 16th President’s seated, 19 foot tall statue into this chair out of 28 marble blocks weighing 120 tons. And to give you an idea of just how large this statue is, if Lincoln were to stand, he would be a towering 28 feet tall.
The big, green Adirondack chair on the front lawn of the Duke Ellington School of the Arts in Georgetown is a mere 14 feet tall. Built by Ellington’s students as a part of an art project installed on the National Mall in 1996, a donor funded repairs to the wood and built a concrete pedestal for the chair several years ago. Ellington’s art students repaint the chair every year (green, of course).
The best part about it? You can climb up to see what it’s like to sit in a massively oversized, big, green chair.
But in Southeast, DC’s true, historical Big Chair (see photo at top) sits just a mile and a half from our newest baseball stadium, 7 blocks from the Anacostia metro stop, and only a few blocks from the incredibly spacious and green Anacostia Park. For decades, it has served as a landmark in the Anacostia community in addition to a directional tool: “Take a left at the Big Chair.”
Intended as a marketing device for a long-defunct local furniture store, the 19.5 foot tall Duncan Phyfe model chair was built in 1959 in Bassett, Virginia. While the original chair was made from African mahogany and weighed 4,600 pounds, its wood began to rot and the chair was removed for restoration in 2005. A new, brown-painted aluminum chair arrived in April of 2006, and everyone in Anacostia seemed relieved to have it back, no matter what it was made of.
The fight for the World’s Tallest Chair was not easily won. Anacostia’s Big Chair held the title on-and-off for over twenty years, while a dozen other cities competed to build higher. Each taller chair that was built earned only a year or two of glory before falling down in defeat.
But the fight was finally lost – for the time being anyway - in 1981 when Anniston, Alabama, built a 31 foot tall office chair, with a spiraling staircase up to the top, out of ten tons of steel.
There’s always time for DC to regain the title of having the World’s Tallest Chair, and I’m sure it’s an honor DC would be proud to have returned. But for now, I guess we can settle for World’s Tallest Obelisk (555 ft!).