The Our Town Civic Organization, Inc. is a grass roots organization that has worked since 1996 to improve our community for ourselves and our children. Some of the projects we have undertaken have been: a theater group called The Front Porch Theater Company who have presented several plays over years, a Writer’s Group who composed an original drama called, "Front Porch Tales" and the Rockingham 250th script, unique performances on local front porches free of charge to the community, a theater restoration committee that works to restore the Bellows Falls Opera House (Town Hall, New Falls Cinema & the "Woman's Club are located there), relighting of the Post Office Bridge lights, an increase of community pride by flower planting and architectural slide shows of local buildings, several celebrations including the premiere book signing of Archer Mayor’s Bellows Falls . The Bellows Falls Literary Guild used to meet in a private home monthly for book discussions.
We initiated the H.O.P.E (Help Our Public Education) committees to encourage local input in the school budget process. Our members coordinated the compilation of a tourist guidebook, and we have held Front Porch Receptions for local business people.
We have worked together with the Great Falls Chamber of Commerce on our summer celebration of "Old Home Days". We have Victorian house tours during this summer festival. Each holiday season, we assist the Bellows Falls Rotary Club with the town tree lighting, Santa visit. We have encouraged people to restore the many grand ‘Painted Ladies’ of our community and entire streets have changed their looks this past year.
The Pride & Beautification Committee restored a turn of the century fountain and places buckets of flowers around the Square. This group also repaired and renovated the Well’s Street Playground.
We work closely with RAMP (Rockingham Area Museum Project) to bring the arts to our community. We have joined with the Bellows Falls Historical Society in an attempt to improve our local museum, the Adam’s Grist Mill, and we are also involved in the CLG (Certified Local Government - National Historic Trust) that created an historic district of our Victorian neighborhoods.
Needless to say we are proud of our accomplishments and our group. One of the most important projects, however, was the Clock Tower Project. After more than twelve months of hard work and devotion the Our Town group, spear-headed by the late Harry Barnard, relit and rang the Clock Tower, a symbol of Bellows Falls for over a century. The Clock Tower had not been working for several decades and had become less than a positive symbol. Through local donations and grants we had the Seth Thomas works repaired and restored and totally redesigned the lighting of the Tower and the clock faces. On December 31, 1997, New Years Eve, we once again heard the mighty peal of the Clock Tower. There was a party, fireworks, music and guest speakers.
Of all our accomplishments, the thing we are most proud of is the feeling of hope and pride that is coming into the village. For a long time Bellows Falls has been pigeon-holed as a community down on its luck with no way back, but with the leadership of Our Town, the work of other community groups, and the ever- present love of the citizens for their community, our village is standing taller, looking sharper, and feeling better about itself. We are coming back as the true jewel of the Connecticut River Valley and as an authentic remnant of the ‘real’ Vermont.
We feel that Our Town is an example of the independence, fortitude and pride that has represented true Vermonters, native born and transplanted.
The enthusiasm has not wavered within our group. New members are joining all the time and new projects are planned for this year and many years to come. We are people who love our community and will continue to work for its betterment. And with all our projects we have never asked the town government for any financial help of any kind. The major fund-raisers of the group include 14 postcards - the first done of Bellows Falls since the 1950s; hand-crafted wooden doortoppers in three different series, Village Series (public buildings), Neighborhood Series (Victorian Mansions) and By-Gone Series (prominent buildings and architecture that no longer stands) (available at Village Square Booksellers).
The Front Porch Theater Group had many productions over the years and produced a cookbook of local recipes called, Applause, Applause. (Available at the Chamber of Commerce and Village Square Booksellers).
In prior years, Our Town organized the Front Porch Art Walk in the Fall and Secret Gardens of Bellows Falls- Garden Tour and Victorian High Tea in the Spring.
Our Town Summer Entertainment Series - Front Porch performances ran for many years (2000-2008).
If you have any questions about Our Town, its history, and its future please feel free to contact at any time: Catherine Bergmann President, Our Town, 802-463-3092 firstname.lastname@example.org