"The first time I saw it, I about fell over," said Ritchie Garrison, professor of history professor and director of the Winterthur Program in American Material Culture at the University of Delaware. "It was a bit like walking into the past."
The discovery was entirely accidental. Garrison and Michael Burrey were in the process of revamping Garrison's 19th century house in Plymouth, Mass. Burrey was also working on a project at a local preschool in Duxbury, Mass., where he discovered what turns out to be a 18th century joiner's shop. Garrison invited several experts in material culture got to see the shop for themselves.
"I said ‘holy cow!'" recalled Garrison, of his first look. If the date painted on the building is accurate the shop could trace back to at least 1789. Eighteenth century shops are extremely rare, unlike the more common 19th-century shops, said Garrison.
The shop provided all sorts of clues to its uses and even the local ecology 200 years ago. And although the school used the shed, many of the features of the shop are essentially untouched. The original workbenches, for instance, are still intact and in good condition. Those benches show different kinds of uses and even the woods they were made of contain clues about the local forests in the 1700s. There was also a conspicuously removed fireplace.