Shelburne is a historic town with unimpeachable pedigree. Settled in 1783 by United Empire Loyalists fleeing New England after the Revolution and the Treaty of Paris, the town swelled with newcomers until by 1784 it is believed to have had a population of 10,000 -- larger than the Montréal, Halifax, or Québec of the time. With the recent declines in both boat building and fishing, however, the town has edged back into that dim economic twilight familiar to other seaside villages (it now has a population of about 2,000), and the waterfront began to deteriorate in spite of valiant preservation efforts.

And then Hollywood came calling. In 1992, the film Mary Silliman's War was filmed here. The producers found the waterfront to be a reasonable facsimile of 1776 Fairfield, Connecticut. The film crew spruced up the town a bit, and buried local power lines along the waterfront.

Two years later, director Roland Joffe arrived to film his spectacularly miscast Scarlet Letter, starring Demi Moore, Gary Oldman, and Robert Duvall. Those film crews buried more power lines, built 15 "historic" structures near the waterfront (most demolished after filming), dumped tons of rubble to create dirt lanes (since removed), and generally made the place look like 17th-century Boston.

When the crew departed, it left behind three new buildings and an impressive shingled steeple you can see from anywhere in town. Among these "new old" buildings is the waterfront cooperage across from the Cooper's Inn. The original structure, clad in asphalt shingles, was generally considered an eyesore and was torn down, replaced by the faux-17th-century building. Today, barrelmakers here painstakingly make and sell traditional handcrafted wooden barrels in what amounts to a souvenir of a notable Hollywood flop.