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Building a Newport High Chest

  • Museum of Old Newbury 98 High Street Newburyport United States (map)

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, Newburyport’s stately Federal homes would have been adorned with fine furniture reflective of their owners’ wealth and status.  Tall chests of drawers stored beautiful clothing and linens, and the most successful businessmen worked by candlelight at desks featuring built-in bookcases for storage.  On Sunday, March 31, the Museum of Old Newbury will welcome master cabinetmaker and carver Allan Breed for a demonstration and presentation about the craftsmanship of creating such fine pieces of furniture.  The presentation will begin at 1:30 pm at the museum, 98 High Street in Newburyport.  The program is free and open to the public, but space is limited.  Contact 978-462-2681 or to reserve your seat.

Breed’s presentation will focus on his work reproducing a high chest made by John Townsend (1732-1809) of Newport, Rhode Island.  Newport was the center of a thriving furniture industry dominated by two intermarried Quaker families, the Townsends and the Goddards.  John was the fourth child of Christopher Townsend (1701–1773), and presumably it was to his father that he was apprenticed.

Breed will share a series of images taken during the construction of the reproduction piece, followed by a demonstration of some of the carving techniques used to create the ball and claw feet and the shell carving.  He will also have finished carving samples on hand to illustrate the finished product.

Allan Breed started his career in the restoration department at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston at the age of 19.  He later pursued a degree in history and started his own furniture restoration business doing work for museums and collectors.  He has since reproduced many iconic pieces of American furniture and has been involved in several major museum exhibitions, including the Phyfe and Townsend exhibits at the Met in New York, New England Begins at the MFA-Boston, and others.  He has taught and lectured on early cabinetmaking practice, connoisseurship, and hand tool cabinetmaking at his shop in Rollinsford, NH and at sites across the country, including Sotheby’s, Christie’s, the Winterthur Furniture Forum, the Dallas Museum of Art, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Earlier Event: March 28
Student Symposium