WARWICK, R.I. (WPRI) — Tucked away off a busy Warwick road sits a mansion belonging to a well-known Rhode Island family.
That family is the Slaters, and their home is now called the Clouds Hill Museum.
Anne Holst, museum curator and fourth-generation owner, tells 12 News the house is full of history.
Holst should know, as she’s the last living relative of the Slaters.
“I’m the only member of the family that spent their entire life in this house,” she explained. “It was a summer house until 1940.”
The house, located off of Post Road, was built 150 years ago as a wedding gift for William S. Slater’s daughter Elizabeth.
When asked whether everything inside the house was authentic, Holst said all of it is.
“[Everything] was either inherited or bought for the house,” she explained. “Some of the furniture was bought by family members.”
The Slaters are best known for their contributions in founding a nearby village, which eventually became known as Slatersville.
It’s a story that caught the eye of filmmaker Christian de Rezendes, who’s putting the finishing touches on a project 10 years in the making.
“I’m a lover of history and I wanted to [make] something along the lines of an historical documentary,” he explained. “This just kind of snowballed into a much bigger thing.”
de Rezendes decided to focus his project on the mark that the Slater family left on the textile industry.
The Slaters were also responsible for building a company store, a congregational church and a library in the village they founded.
It was a story that de Rezendes said was, at first, challenging to tell.
“I had to learn it backwards,” de Rezendes said. “The stuff that had to do with the 20th century, I had to film all of those people while they were still with us and get all of that side of it. Then you get the Slaters’ end of it in the 18th century, and you have three generations of that, and it goes back to England. You find out who the key characters are, the struggles they went through … I filmed about 140 people on camera and that I know of, about 26 have since passed away.”
“It’s very important to get their words, get their tone, get their voices and faces,” he continued. “That’s more important to me than just handing me a historical document and someone saying, ‘Here, write a script.'”
de Rezendes said an actor who voiced one of the characters in the film told him a saying that has stuck with him throughout the storytelling process.
“He said, ‘Christian, nobody cares about the nine months, they just want to see the baby,'” de Rezendes said. “It’s true. But the reality is, the only way I could show you a baby was by walking you through the nine months and that was a big lesson I learned.”
The first episode of de Rezendes’ documentary series, which is appropriately named “Slatersville: America’s First Mill Village,” premieres Friday at 7 p.m. on PBS. The first season consists of 12 episodes that will be released weekly.
de Rezendes tells 12 News he’s already working on a second season, adding that one just isn’t enough to do the Slaters’ legacy justice.