In May 2016, the construction and development firm Skanska USA had an interesting discovery in the Seaport District. While building the foundation of 121 Seaport, a 17-floor office building, they unearthed a 19th-century shipwreck.
Charlestown craftsman John Dickey, also known as Timberguy, has been creating custom furniture from the salvaged wood. “It’s been a real privilege to get to disassemble the pieces and look at the materials,” says Dickey.
Dickey began working exclusively with reclaimed materials in 2008, when he started making furniture out of remnants from a barn in his hometown of Billerica, Massachusetts. “I was always a carpenter but using reclaimed wood was born out of financial necessity,” says Dickey. Necessity, yes, and perhaps a genuine love and talent for crafting furniture for today from pieces of the past. Dickey has built furniture for offices and homes using materials from old houses , barns, mills, schooners and now sunken ships.
Archeologists refer to shipwrecks as sunken time capsules. Some parts of the Seaport shipwreck were examined by a local archeologist, who discovered the ship was from the 1800s and most likely originated in Rockland, Maine. However, Dickey hopes to work with a school or museum to find out more about the ship.
He’s used about a third of the salvaged wood making stools, chests and tables. In each fragment, the strength of the old wood can be seen in the tight growth rings and you can even notice how sections were joined. “When you’re building furniture with reclaimed materials, you’re running into all these fascinating historical markers,” says Dickey. “It’s like an article about the times and this one was buried 20 feet under the ground.”