You don’t have to be from Southeast or even a DC native to know about the most popular landmark in the quadrant—The Big Chair. The 20-foot mahogany structure is the unofficial reference point for how to get everywhere East of the River. “It’s around the corner from The Big Chair.” “It’s across the street from The Big Chair.” “No, it’s on the other end of MLK [opposite The Big Chair].”
“Why the heck is a giant dinning chair propped in the middle of Anacostia anyway?” Funny you should ask! It may seem random today, but when it was built in 1959, The Big Chair was a promotional strategy to attract customers to the Curtis Brothers Furniture showroom across the street. Some District residents still recall the “pretty lady” that lived on the chair for 42 straight days. In 1960, a model known as Lynn Arnold (Rebecca Kirby) lived in a 10’x10’ cubicle that was fork lifted onto the chair. The space was complete with all the necessities—bed, shower, toilet, air conditioning, heating and even a balcony. The woman was paid $1500 and Curtis Brother’s Furniture received priceless promotion. Ironically, the promotion outlived the product. The Curtis Brother’s Furniture store closed in 1973, while The Big Chair still stands.