Our Town: Middletown – Exploring the Rich History and Natural Beauty

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Welcome to “Our Town: Middletown,” a town located in the middle of a quintic island in Rhode Island. With its rich history, thriving business district, and stunning natural beauty, Middletown has become a community that residents and visitors alike cherish. In this article, we will take you on a journey through the past and present of Middletown, exploring its history, landmarks, and the organizations dedicated to preserving its natural resources. So, sit back, relax, and join us as we delve into what makes Middletown such a special place.

A Thriving Community with a Historical Background

Middletown, incorporated in 1743, started as a farming community but has transformed into a vibrant town with a bustling business district, historic homes, and open spaces. The town, covering nearly 15 square miles, is proud of its rich history and the landmarks that bear witness to it. Whether you explore the beautiful beaches, protected lands, or iconic spots, you’ll find remnants of the past that tell a captivating narrative.

One particular gem in Middletown is the Swan Circuit Pond, which has been a favorite spot for many residents and visitors. Overlooking the pond, people often remark that Middletown hasn’t changed much over the years, preserving its charm and character. The early settlers, who were well-educated and wealthy, wanted to start a new life in this geographically excellent location. The town’s foresight and the hard work of its residents have given Middletown a beautiful town that it is today.

Exploring Middletown’s Historic Sites and Landmarks

One of the sites that showcases Middletown’s historical significance is the Sports Windmill. This windmill played a crucial role in the past, grinding corn to make various dishes, including Johnny cakes. The process involved taking kernels of corn off the cob and bringing them to the mill for grinding. Through the use of wind power, the corn was ground and collected in bags for later use.

The windmill, along with the millstones driven by wind-powered sails, offers a captivating insight into the town’s history. Visitors can witness the process of corn grinding and learn about the ingenuity of the early settlers in utilizing wind power. The windmill stands as a testament to the town’s agricultural heritage and innovation.

Norman Bird Sanctuary: Protecting Wildlife and Natural Resources

Middletown is home to the Norman Bird Sanctuary, a place dedicated to protecting wildlife and preserving natural resources. Founded by Mabel Normand in the early 1900s, the sanctuary sits on what was once paradise farm. Mabel Normand’s vision was to ensure that the land remained undeveloped and served as a habitat for birds and other wildlife.

Today, the Norman Bird Sanctuary encompasses 325 acres of diverse habitats, including woodlands, ponds, rivers, and salt marshes. It offers educational programs for schoolchildren, providing them with experiential learning opportunities and fostering a deeper appreciation for nature. The sanctuary’s commitment to preserving biodiversity and promoting habitat conservation is a true reflection of Middletown’s dedication to its natural resources.

St. Columba’s: A Cornerstone of Paradise Valley

St. Columba’s, a church located in Paradise Valley, is not just a place of worship but also a significant cultural presence in Middletown. It was built by Mary Clarke Sturdivant, who wanted to create a place of worship to honor the Anglo-Irish philosopher George Berkeley. The chapel’s construction was a community effort, with local farmers and individuals coming together to support the project.

Over the years, St. Columba’s has played an integral role in the lives of many Middletown residents. Generations have christened their children, married their sweethearts, and buried their loved ones within its walls. The churchyard is a testament to the town’s history, with gravestones bearing illustrious names. Each year, the church holds an English garden party that draws visitors from all over the island, embodying the spirit that built the chapel.

St. George’s School: A Legacy of Education

St. George’s School, founded in 1896 by Reverend John Diamond, has had a significant impact on the Middletown community. Initially starting with only a dozen boys in rented houses in Newport, the school eventually moved to its current location. The campus features the historic “Old School” building, which serves as a reminder of the school’s early years.

Generations of families have attended St. George’s School, creating a strong connection between the institution and the town. The school’s commitment to education and its rich history have made it a beloved part of the community. As the current head of school, the author of this article shares a personal connection to St. George’s, highlighting its importance in Middletown’s educational landscape.


Middletown, Rhode Island, is a town that has preserved its history while embracing progress and growth. From its early days as a farming community to its thriving business district today, Middletown has maintained its charm and character. The dedication of organizations like the Norman Bird Sanctuary and the cultural significance of landmarks like St. Columba’s Church and St. George’s School underscore the town’s commitment to its natural resources and education.

Next time you find yourself in Middletown, take the time to explore its historical sites, walk along its beautiful beaches, and immerse yourself in the natural beauty that surrounds the town. Middletown truly offers a unique experience that celebrates its past while looking towards the future.

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