Discovering the Art of Wooden Boatbuilding


For those who find themselves curious at the sight of a mighty schooner at sea, wondering how it was built or thought about the skills that go into building the Gloucester fishing fleet of the past, Essex Heritage has a series that might be for you.

Essex Heritage, the National Park Service, Lowell’s Boat Shop, Essex Shipbuilding Museum, and Maritime Gloucester will offer an interactive programming series, “Art of Wooden Boatbuilding.”  The five-part series will explore the principles behind the design and construction of traditional wooden boats, while also giving participants the opportunity to experience hands-on practices at several traditional boatbuilding establishments on Boston’s North Shore.  

The program starts with a free virtual lecture, presented by traditional boatbuilding experts, Justin Demetri and Harold Burnham.  Justin Demetri is an author, historian, and director of visitor services at the Essex Shipbuilding Museum.  He has researched and written extensively into the maritime history of the region, including Essex County.  

Harold Burnham is an 11th generation master shipbuilder, designer, and mariner who continues the shipbuilding trade using traditional methods.  He is a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts National Heritage Fellow.  

Harold also designed and built the Gloucester Schooner Thomas E. Lannon and the Pinky Schooner Ardelle, as well as the Schooner Fame out of Salem.  He is currently involved in the rehabilitation of the Sylvina W. Beal, the oldest existing auxiliary knockabout fishing schooner in North America and one of two known existing Maine-built fishing schooners, at his boatyard in Essex.

“Looking out my attic office window at the timber piling up, the shipyard and river below it is hard to believe that nearly 400 years later shipbuilding is still an important part of our economy and culture here on the North Shore,” remarks Harold Burham. “I am looking forward to participating in The Art of Wooden Boatbuilding workshops with the Essex National Heritage Area and with some of the institutions and individuals who have helped to keep this important part of our heritage alive and present for our generation and the next.”

The lecture will be followed by four workshops on Saturdays from May-June. The workshops will be held at maritime sites within the Essex National Heritage Area (Essex County, Massachusetts) – namely at Lowell’s Boat Shop in Amesbury, at Maritime Gloucester’s working waterfront on Gloucester’s Inner Harbor, and in Pedrick’s Storehouse next to the replica tall ship Friendship docked at Salem Maritime National Historic Site. Optional “add-on” activities will be available to sign-up for at each site the day of the workshops.

Session Schedule

May 2 at 7 p.m., FREE virtual lecture with Justin Demetri and Harold Burnham

May 14 at 9 a.m., “Rigging a Tall Ship” at Salem Maritime National Historic Site

Mat 21 at 9 a.m., “Building a Dory” at Lowell’s Boat Shop

June 11 at 9 a.m., “The Haul Out” at Maritime Gloucester

Individual workshop session - $85/person

Optional activities for each session - $20/person

Discounts for members of Essex Heritage, Maritime Gloucester, or Lowell’s Boat Shop

Info at or (978) 740-0444


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