Explore OUR TOWN: Smithfield on September 13

Last Updated by Lucie Raposo on

Local legends, historical happenings, and backyard secrets are the focus of Our Town, an ongoing Rhode Island PBS community project, now in its sixth edition. Rhode Island PBS premieres the documentary Our Town: Smithfield on Wednesday, September 13 at 7:30 p.m.

Earlier this spring and summer, neighbors in Smithfield became storytellers and filmmakers to capture the stories they wanted to tell in Our Town: Smithfield. These stories have been woven together into a visual tapestry of nostalgia, humor, enterprise, history, even a surprise or two, all representing life in Smithfield through the eyes of those who know and love it. Smithfield residents and friends involved in the production will be in the studio to share their experiences working on the project. Volunteers will also answer phones during this fund raising special to benefit Rhode Island PBS.

Among the stories that will appear in the film is a segment about Neil Salley, the designer of the town seal. Neil Salley has lived in Smithfield nearly his whole life and is the artist who created the official town seal. Salley gives viewers a rare peek at the early designs of the seal, and how his knowledge and love for his town drove the final design.

Smithfield Airport came to be because local resident, John Emin, needed a place to land his airplane. Little did he know that just days after erecting a hanger and sign for the Smithfield Airport, that a now-famous WWII pilot would make a stop in Smithfield.

Smith-Appleby HouseThe Smith-Appleby House is now a museum on seven acres, and headquarters to the Historical Society of Smithfield.  The home was built in 1696 by the great-grandson of one of the original party of six men who left the Massachusetts Bay Colony with Roger Williams to start the colony of Providence.

The men and women of the Smithfield Fire Department proudly serve their community every day. Told by those who know the department best, the story describes the earliest volunteer departments in the 1800s, and the evolution to the current-day paid firefighters. The segment also includes tribute to those who lost their lives in the line of duty, as well as some notable fires through the years.

The Mary Mowry House is an historical home on 20-plus acres in Smithfield.  After more than a decade of sitting vacant, the home is being refurbished through a partnership between the town and several non-profit organizations. The segment presents a first-hand look at before and after photos of the improvements being made to the homestead, originally built in the 1700s.

Powder Mill Ledges is an incredible wildlife refuge in town. The 100-plus acre property is owned and operated by the Audubon Society of Rhode Island, and is their organization headquarters. In this segment, viewers are given an amazing tour of all Powder Mill Ledges has to offer, from wildlife and nature trails, to classes and community events.

While a Christmas celebration in town is nothing new, the Smithfield Christmas Parade is brand new. The first annual, held in December of 2016, was a big hit, and in the segment, organizers share the sights and sounds, explain how the event came about, and what made it so special. The segment also previews plans for the 2nd annual Smithfield Christmas Parade.

EsmondMill1.jpg In the early days, like so many Rhode Island communities, Smithfield was a mill town. There were several mills of different industry, but none as well-known as the Esmond Mill. This mill manufactured blankets that became famous across the United States and beyond. The history of the Esmond Mill and its famous blankets is told in this segment by an avid collector, who has taken it upon herself to learn their history and what made them so special.

The Greenville Public library was established in 1882 in a building that was once a local store.  The library grew at that location until 1956 when it moved to its current site. The segment explores how and why the library was established, and describes its many expansion opportunities, and how the use of the library is different today from what it was more than 100 years ago.  

The Smithfield Exchange Bank was built in 1822 as an addition to the Waterman Tavern on Putnam Pike. The bank remained in operation at that location until 1856 when it moved to a new and larger brick building next door. After nearly two-hundred years and conversion to residential use, the original building still has some of the characteristics of a 19th century bank, but has recently fallen into disrepair. The Smithfield Preservation Society and a lifelong Smithfield resident have teamed up to purchase the bank building and begin a major renovation with huge historical impact.

The Joseph Farnum House was built in the late 18th century on Farnum Pike, part of the historic mill village of Georgiaville.  The current owner of the home takes viewers back in time using historic and personal documents the Farnum family left behind for a glimpse into the history of the home, the Farnum family, and what life was like for them from the late 1700s through the early 1900s. 

Part fund-raiser, part community builder, part historical and cultural documentary, and part “day-in-the-life” video scrapbook, Our Town: Smithfield is the sixth documentary in the Our Town series. The first film, Our Town: Glocester, premiered in December 2014; Our Town: North Kingstown premiered in September 2015, Our Town: Portsmouth debuted in December 2015; Our Town: Westerly premiered in September 2016; Our Town West Warwick debuted in December 2016. 

The purpose of Our Town is to share the charm and character of Rhode Island towns and villages - in particular, untold or uncelebrated stories that capture the essence of life in the town. Building community by enhancing connections and relationships between Rhode Island PBS and town residents, the stories are told by citizen storytellers and videographers, who choose the stories they want to tell about their town. The role of Rhode Island PBS is to offer technical advice and then stitch together the stories into a one-hour film. Next in the series will be Our Town: Bristol, set to begin production this fall and premiere in March 2018.

For information about joining the Rhode Island PBS Our Town project, visit ripbs.org/our-town, or call Jodi Mesolella (project director) at 401-222-3636, extension 209, Nicole Muri (producer) at extension 225, or email ourtown@ripbs.org.

WSBE Rhode Island PBS transmits high-definition (HD) and standard-definition (SD) content over the air on digital 36.1; on Rhode Island cable: Cox 08 / 1008HD, Verizon FiOS 08 / 508HD, and Full Channel 08; on Massachusetts cable: Comcast 819HD (check local Comcast listings for standard definition channels) and Verizon FiOS 18 / 518HD; on satellite: DirecTV 36, Dish Network 36. WSBE Learn transmits SD on digital 36.2, Cox 808, Verizon 478, Full Channel 89, and Comcast 294 or 312.

Our Town: Smithfield is made possible in part by support from Dave's Marketplace.

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