The mission of the Middletown Township Historical Society, “Opening the Door to our Past,” is symbolized by the door knocker rescued from the former Blackstone Inn.
The group now has a portal through which all may pass.
The nearly 100 year-old Roosevelt School is the new location for the society’s collection. The historic building and artifacts were on display during an open house this month.
“We are thrilled to have a home,” said historical society President Susan Mescanti. “This has all been stored in the Middletown Free Library or in my basement.”
The items were among many attractions in the building at 464 South Old Middletown Road. The museum and office occupy three rooms, with displays such as the life of Joshua Pusey, inventor of the paper matchbook, the original rafters and replica of the Smedley Barn and the Glen Riddle Railroad Station sign on permanent loan from the Aston Township Historical Society.
“We plan to categorize our collection,” said Mescanti. “It will make it so much easier for people who have questions about township history,”
Maps and clippings have been augmented with a copy of “Light in the Valley,” the oral history of Honeycomb UAME Church. Compiled by Media businessperson Rich Glassman, the video offers recollections of those who built and worshipped in the building on Barren Road. A copy is included in the Library of Congress and congregation members joined for the presentation.
“I’ve known the (current and former member) Moat family since I was a little kid,” said Glassman. “Honeycomb has been an established church for years and this was an elegant project for me to do.”
The building itself is an artifact. Constructed in 1921 as a four-room schoolhouse, Roosevelt was expanded three times, the last addition in 1952 with a connecting wing. The building was operated as an elementary school by the Rose Tree Media School District until the early 1980s, when it was closed due to district-wide declining enrollment.
The school was sold to a construction company for office space and later rented to the Delaware County Intermediate Unit. With an eye toward community use, the township purchased the property in 2015, paying $853,500 for the 42,000-square building on 5.5 acres.
Following site cleanup in 2016 by Williamson College of the Trades students and the township Public Works Department, work began earlier this year to refurbish the historic front wing. All systems have been inspected and returned to working condition, high-efficiency lighting ceiling tiles installed and the interior painted and polished.
The historical society is one of many envisioned uses for the interior space and exterior grounds. A committee of Council and community members is in the process of developing plans for the site and welcomes ideas.
“One thought is portions of the building might be leased on a short or long-term dedicated basis,” said Council member Susan Powell. “People were making suggestions today such as for a yoga studio, Boy Scout meeting location or indoor playground.”
The festive event attracted several hundred visitors who enjoyed works by local artists and Rose Tree Media School District alumni, the sounds of First Take, a Delaware County barbershop quartet, and refreshments.
The historic nature was important to retired Middletown Fire Marshal Jack McKeown.
“People know if they call 911 a red truck will come to their house, but they don’t always appreciate the history,” he said. “This tells them about the dedicated volunteers who founded the Middletown Fire Company.”