Yesterday at Kidcity Children's Museum, we had some unexpected visitors! Sister Lucille (left) and Sister Ann Marie (right) stopped at our front desk and asked if they could look around, because they used to live here when our building was the convent for St. Sebastian's Church!
I had a blast showing both of them around the older section of the museum, as they went from room to room saying "This was the Mother Superior's room"and "There used to be a stairway here down to the kitchen." Apparently, our Fishery exhibit used to be something called the Rumpus Room.
Sister Lucille pulled out her smart phone at one point and called another nun, saying "I'm standing right now where the chapel used to be!"
Here's a bit of the history of Kidcity's building: The house itself was built on the corner of Broad and Washington in the 1860's as a duplex mansion for the Camp and Sterns families, and then became the convent for St. Sebastian's in the 1920's. There was only 6 or 8 feet from the back of the house to the side of St. Sebastian's Church - an interesting thing to reflect on when you imagine what a huge endeavor it must have been to build the church, with a house sitting just a few feet away.
By 1997, the Church was planning to demolish the vacant convent, which had been declared a blighted building by the city. After a plea from local preservationists, led by Jeff Bianco, the Church decided to donate the building to our new non-profit organization so that we could start Kidcity - a win-win for everyone. We had to move the building down the street from the corner of Broad and Washington, on what was surely the coldest day of the year, only to have the building get stuck in the middle of the street. Two days later, the building finally made its way to the current location, a small piece of the public parking lot which was donated by the city for the new foundation. The Connection was our angel investor at that point, taking out a mortgage from Citizens to pay for the move, and then selling the building to Kidcity on the first anniversary of our opening the museum.
As it looks now, the convent is Kidcity's blue building, which was rotated to face Washington Street during the move. The yellow building is the addition that we built to the museum in 2003.
We sometimes have visitors who went to St. Sebastian's School as children and they tell us about going to the convent to clean - someone just wrote on our facebook page about her memories of polishing the banister. But this is the first time in many, many years that we've had any of the Sisters stop by.
After leaving Middletown, Sister Ann Marie and Sister Lucille continued their teaching careers, and their love for children was clear as they walked through the museum and engaged kids as they played pretend. We debated with one little boy about what kind of dinosaur he was carrying around (Stegosaurus? Spinosaurus?)
Sister Ann Marie and Sister Lucille are currently retired in New Jersey, but they both had warm memories of Middletown and it was such a delight to visit with them.
**UPDATED: My apologies for the first draft of this article, which listed the Sisters of Mercy instead of the Sisters of St. Lucy Fillippini as the order of Sister Lucille and Sister Ann Marie.