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Central Falls (Roosevelt Avenue) Mill Complex

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Roosevelt Avenue
Roosevelt Ave. north of Cross St. visible from Pawtucket side of the Blackstone River or from the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge

This group of mills around the middle of the three falls accounts for the town's name. The rear range of older factories, screened by later building in front of them, are visible from Pawtucket, on the shore opposite the rear of the Central Falls mill complex, which faces on Roosevelt Avenue, or—the only alternative when trees along the Pawtucket bank are in leaf—from the bridge, on the town border, looking upstream, where Pawtucket's Central Avenue becomes Central Falls's Cross Street. (Central Falls has its own Central Street nearby.)

The view up-river from the bridge includes three old industrial buildings worth special attention. Closest, or southmost, of these is the Central Falls Woolen Mill ( CF1.1; 1870, Phetteplace and Seagrave), 523 Roosevelt Avenue, a long, gabled factory building in brick which extends its narrow end toward the river; above (north of) this, the Pawtucket Thread Manufacturing Company ( CF1.2; 1825), 527 Roosevelt Avenue, a much smaller 1825 masonry block; finally, farther upstream (north), the Stafford Mill extension ( CF1.3), 581 Roosevelt Avenue, another long, gabled brick factory, this from the 1860s (excluding for now its front monitored section, to which we shall come shortly; see CF3). The brick buildings exhibit the trend in brick factory construction typical of (but not universal for) progressive change from pre– to post–Civil War examples. Whereas the rear extension of the 1860s Stafford Mill shows granite lintel slabs sustaining the loads of the brick wall over window openings, the 1870s Central Falls Woolen Mill uses segmental arches to deflect these loads to either side of the window openings. The degree to which planar brick walls under factory eaves characterize prewar work is uncertain; but corbeled eaves surely flourished after the war, as Pawtucket's brick factories have already revealed. This 1870 mill also boasts a well-preserved and, by this date, rather old-fashioned trapdoor monitor with narrow transom lights. It lost its tower toward Roosevelt Avenue when connected to a later building. The two brick mills flank the little gabled stone Greek Revival thread mill of 1865, which originally also had a trapdoor monitor, as well as a belfry on the roof. (This early building was later slightly enlarged toward Roosevelt Avenue with a purely functional tower in front which did not project above the roof.) Although it is much battered, and most of its windows are filled in, comparison of this 40-by-80-foot block with its successors makes immediately evident the jump in the average scale of operations between the first quarter of the nineteenth century and the post–Civil War period.

Behind this granite block is the brick extension of 1860 to the original Stafford Mill. As a factory unit it is intermediate in size between the 1825 and 1870 mills, and less developed than the later mill as an industrial type. Its windows, still domestic in scale and handling, in the 1870 building become larger, non-residential in character, and more abstractly organized to a geometric grid.

Finally, immediately upstream of the Stafford Mill is this company's replacement ( CF1.4; 1863) for Sylvester Brown's original 1780 dam. It is a curved dam, but virtually right-angled with a rounded corner in midstream. The cooperative power canal which once ran from it beneath these three mills and others was filled in 1965.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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