TV series to film at Wyben Schoolhouse, pending restoration

The Wyben one-room schoolhouse. (SUBMITTED)

WESTFIELD — Historical Commission Chair Cindy Gaylord said that a television producer has chosen the Wyben Schoolhouse as the location for a TV series about a community that is almost literally stuck in the past.

Gaylord said that John Martine of Joyful Pictures, Sound and Press has chosen Westfield’s last one-room schoolhouse for a 14-episode series, pending the restoration of the building itself. She described the plot of the show as being about a community that was founded hundreds of years ago, but did not progress socially or technologically with the society around it.

She said that the show has 14 episodes written, as well as a pilot episode which Martine will use to attract networks to pick up the show.

Production of the show hinges on the restoration of the schoolhouse, which has degraded somewhat over time. Gaylord said that the Historical Commission has reached out to restoration experts for the exterior clapboards, which will need to be custom-made, as there is no standard modern equivalent.

The commission also seeks to construct a handicap ramp to better comply with modern building codes. She said that the commission has not yet requested funding for the schoolhouse, because members are not yet sure how much they will need, and that Martine may contribute to the funding once those numbers are known. They may also apply for Community Preservation Act grant funds for the project.

Martine himself did not respond in time to a request for comment. Joyful Pictures is based in the Florence neighborhood of Northampton.

The Historical Commission had once considered the possibility of moving the schoolhouse to a location downtown, presumably adjacent to the Whip Museum. However, after Martine reached out with the prospect of using it as a filming location, the commission dropped that plan.

The restoration of the Wyben Schoolhouse could take as long as a year, but Gaylord said that Martine would be willing to wait. He had been considering many different schoolhouses across New England, but settled on the last schoolhouse in Westfield.

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