Find of a lifetime: Historic workshop filmed for museum exhibit

Written by Gillian Smith
 | Wednesday, 11 June 2014 17:10


A workshop in Duxbury got some unusual attention last week as film crews came down to explore the antique site.

The workshop, which is housed in an unassuming white shed on the Berrybrook School land on Winter Street, was discovered when a farmhouse that had previously been used as the preschool’s main building was being dismantled in 2012. Chris DeOrsay, former president of the board of directors for the Berrybrook School, showed the shed to Plymouth restoration carpenter Michael Burrey during the dismantling of the farmhouse, which now resides in Norwell.

“We found interesting bits and pieces inside the old farmhouse and I thought he might think the old shop out back would be interesting as well,” DeOrsay said.

When Burrey stepped foot into the shed, he told DeOrsay that he thought the shed was actually an 18th century workshop.

“I didn’t realize what we were looking at all those years,” DeOrsay said.

DeOrsay got in touch with an old friend, a University of Delware professor who lives in Plymouth, and asked him to come to the site and take a look around.

“He told me it was the professional discovery of a lifetime,” DeOrsay said.

DeOrsay invited survey teams from Colonial Williamsburg, Historic Deerfield and Boston University, among a dozen other experts. After two days of research and study, it was discovered that the shop belonged to Luther Sampson, an 18th century craftsman.

The shop, which is still mostly intact, has planing benches, metalworking areas, vises, and shelves that may have been used for many woodworking purposes.

Last week, the Peabody Essex Museum sent a camera crew to the Berrybrook site to film the workshop as part of a larger interactive museum exhibit on an 18th century cabinet maker on the South Shore. Philip Lowe, founder and director of the Furniture Institute of Massachusetts, worked with the film crew to set up the shoot on antique furniture–making and spent the day at the shop working on several projects and discussing furniture making in the 18th century.

"It’s pretty cool that when people go to the exhibit in the fall they will see Luther Sampson’s workshop and Duxbury,” DeOrsay said.