Welcome to OUR TOWN: Middletown!

Posted by Remy Chester on

The local legends, historical happenings, and backyard secrets of Middletown, Rhode Island, are the focus of Our Town, an ongoing Rhode Island PBS community project. Our Town: Middletown premieres on Rhode Island PBS on Wednesday, September 4 at 7:30 p.m.

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

“We are pleased to present the stories of Middletown to all of Rhode Island,” said David W. Piccerelli, president of WSBE Rhode Island PBS. “Beyond sharing these local stories for residents, viewers all across southeastern New England discover new facts and histories about the town’s many neighborhoods and villages.”

Among the stories that will appear in the film is a segment about St. George’s School, a small, private school that sits atop a hill overlooking Second Beach. While most know of St. George’s School by location, its storied history is a mystery to many. This story, submitted by current administrators, introduces the local man who founded the school, its original location, as well as the story behind its iconic chapel.

Other segments include:

CHURCH OF THE HOLY CROSS:  This little church has a big story, beginning with the architect who designed it, Richard Upjohn. He was commissioned to build three churches on Aquidneck Island, Holy Cross being one of them. Still an active parish, the current warden takes us back in time to explore the church’s intricate architecture, how the church came to be, and the parish it is today.

EARLY HISTORY OF THE TOWN:  Submitted by the Middletown Historical Society, this story takes a look back at the geographic make-up of Middletown and the key players during its founding and earliest years.

ICONIC TOURIST SPOTS:  Submitted by a Middletown resident, this segment visits several of the town’s popular tourist spots, which include Frosty Freeze, Paradise Valley, Purgatory Chasm, Second Beach, and Surfer’s End.

MIDDLETOWN HIGH/TOWN PRIDE:  This story, submitted by school administrators, talks about Middletown High School and its strong sense of school and town pride. It’s not hard to believe that many current faculty and staff members of Middletown High School are former students.

MIDDLETOWN PUBLIC LIBRARY:  Submitted by the current director of the library, this segment explores the past and present of the library. “Reading with you since 1848” is the library motto, and this segment details how library offerings have changed from traditional reading material, to the present day, as residents are now able to check out fishing rods.

NORMAN BIRD SANCTUARY:  A Middletown landmark, the Norman Bird Sanctuary includes paths for nature exploration, classes, camps, and other organized events. This story, submitted by the organization itself, chronicles the history of the Norman Bird Sanctuary, how it came to be, and by whom it was founded, as well as what today’s Sanctuary offers visitors.

PRESCOTT FARM:  Purchased in 1969 by Doris Duke to preserve open land and save historic buildings from demolition, the 40-acre Prescott Farm is owned by the Newport Restoration Foundation. This segment visits the property to explore its history and spaces, open for public enjoyment,     

RESTMERE HOUSE:  This story, submitted by the current homeowners, describes how, during their restoration of this 1850’s home they uncovered stories deeply rooted in the history of Middletown and beyond.  Designed by famed architect Richard Upjohn, this home was once a gathering place for “jam sessions” among famous musicians visiting the area for the Newport Folk Festival.

SACHUEST POINT:  Submitted by a resident who loves to visit this Middletown landmark, in this segment we hear from those who run this wildlife refuge.  They explain to our viewers all that Sachuest has to offer, from walking trails to wildlife viewing, to classes and field trips at this wonderland of nature.

ST. COLUMBA’S CHAPEL: This story, submitted by those who run St. Columba’s today, reveals more of the rich history surrounding the town and its earliest settlers. The daughter of Rhode Island’s Episcopal Bishop at the time founded St. Columba’s. In its early days, this chapel was where St. George’s School students attended Sunday mass before their school chapel was built.

VICTROLA PROJECT:  This is the story of Middletown resident William Jones, a lover of music and life-long piano teacher, who began refurbishing old Victrola machines as a hobby. In this segment, Jones talks about the machines, his love for restoring them, and how he donates them to schools for music education.

ABOUT OUR TOWN

Part fund-raiser, part community builder, part historical and cultural documentary, and part “day-in-the-life” video scrapbook, Our Town: Middletown is the 10th documentary in the Our Town series. 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 resident 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: Scituate, now in production and set to premiere in March 2020.

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.

Our Town: Middletown is made possible in part by support from Chris Electric, Ltd. of Newport.

ABOUT RHODE ISLAND PBS

WSBE Rhode Island PBS is operated by the Rhode Island PBS Foundation, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization. WSBE Rhode Island PBS is a viewer-supported member of the PBS network of public broadcasting stations, and uses the power of noncommercial media to educate, engage, enrich, inspire, and entertain viewers of all ages in Rhode Island, southeastern Massachusetts, and eastern Connecticut since 1967. WSBE-TV delivers content on two channels, Rhode Island PBS (digital 36.1) and Learn (digital 36.2). For more information about programs and education services at WSBE, visit www.ripbs.org.