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Middletown Town

Middletown Town Hall is located at 350 East Main Road, Middletown, RI 02842; phone: 401-849-2898.

Beginnings [1]

The rural character of what is now Middletown appealed to Bishop George Berkeley, the Anglo-Irish philosopher. While awaiting promised funding for a college he hoped to found in Bermuda, Berkeley bought a ninety-six acre tract "out in the woods." He built a farmhouse and lived there from 1720 to 1731, devoting his days to agriculture and writing. "Whitehall," his residence, was named in memory of the old palace of the English kings; the house still stands, and its surrounding area is still in fields.

The rural Middletown countryside also appealed to merchants and other prominent Newport residents, who set up summer estates here, complete with fine gardens and landscaped grounds. The most pretentious extant eighteenth century dwelling in Middletown is William Redwood's Country House (ca. 1745), an estate which exemplifies the high-style country living enjoyed by Newport's early wealthy merchants. Later, Quaker preacher David Buffum lived in the house.

By mid-century, a combination of circumstances — including the development of the land, a growing population, and resentment over unjust taxation — led to a petition to the General Assembly for political independence by Newport freeholders living in "the woods." As a result, Middletown was set off as a separate town in 1743.

A number of supporting institutions and services were also created during the eighteenth century. A school was built as early as 1701 or 1702, and gradually others were added throughout the town. The oldest extant schoolhouse in Middletown is the 1794 Peabody School on Third Beach Road, now used as a private residence.

  1. Walter Nebiker and Pamela Kennedy, Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission, Middletown Rhode Island Multiple Resource Area (MRA), nomination document, 1990, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
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