Havre de Grace is chosen as location for production of new WB television series

April 21, 2000|By Sheridan Lyons | Sheridan Lyons,SUN STAFF

Waterside Havre de Grace beat out landlocked Westminster as the location for a new WB Television Network series set at a New England boarding school.

"We're delighted," said Havre de Grace Mayor Philip J. Barker, whose town hadn't been mentioned among several possibilities, including Annapolis, Toronto and Charlotte, N.C. "The dark horse sometimes wins."

He said the producers visited the Harford County town of about 13,000 the first week of April and were particularly taken with the intersection of Congress Avenue and North Washington Street, which affords views of residential and business districts, and the Susquehanna River. The producers plan to redesign the intersection into a town square.

WB, known for "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Dawson's Creek" and other hit shows aimed at teen-agers, plans an hourlong drama, "Young Americans," recounting the intermingling of wealthy vs. working class -- or "blue blood meets blue collar" -- at a New England boarding school.

A news release promises "star-crossed loves," "scandalous affairs" and "rites of passage with no parents in sight," as the young adult characters are thrown together, some born to wealth and position, others on scholarship and out of their element.

Havre de Grace -- in French, "harbor of grace" -- was incorporated in 1785 where the lower Susquehanna River meets the upper Chesapeake Bay in Harford County. In addition to its historic district, it has numerous waterfront parks, including the Concord Point Lighthouse.

The Maryland Film Office refused to confirm the news, but a spokeswoman for the company that is producing the show for WB, Columbia TriStar Television Inc., said Havre de Grace has been chosen.

"It looks lovely," said Paula Askanas, senior vice president for media relations at the production company in Los Angeles. "It captures the look they were looking for."

Filming is to begin next month, she said. WB ordered eight episodes after a pilot of the show was submitted as a possible midseason replacement.

The shows are to be aired beginning in July, although no date or time has been set, Askanas said. If the show is a success, the crews could return in the fall to film 13 episodes to run in January.

A few weeks ago in Westminster, the show's producers looked at Main Street and Western Maryland College as potential settings.

"We didn't make it," Westminster Mayor Kenneth A. Yowan, said yesterday after receiving the call from the location manager.

He said the producers apparently liked the presence of water in Havre de Grace and added, "There's not much we can do about that.

"They said they did like Westminster, and they would be back. We put up a valiant fight," he said. "We'll go on to live another day here, and next time they come by, we'll try again."

Westminster, with a population of about 15,000, earned high marks -- and probably its spot on the short list -- for its all-out effort during the filming of the movie "For Richer or Poorer" in 1997, Yowan and others have said.

Barker said Havre de Grace has been used several times for individual scenes but has never played host to a television series. Scenes from "Hairspray," "Liberty Heights" and "Homicide: Life on the Street" were filmed in the town.

"We have a quiet little city here, very historic in nature, but also very much in the 21st century," the mayor said.

Film projects can mean millions of dollars, national attention and tourists for the chosen locales.

"Homicide" spent about $28 million a year in Baltimore. It was canceled last year by NBC after a seven-year run.

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