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Pawtucket Hair Cloth Mill

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1864, William R. Walker. 501 Roosevelt Ave. (corner of Cross St.)

Begun in a small factory across the street in 1856, this business became successful after the acquisition of patents for weaving haircloth (most of the raw material for which originally came from Russian horse markets) for upholstery, crinolines, and inner linings. Growing success called for this new, three-and-one-half-story plant (four and one-half stories downhill). The original entrance has been shifted from the base of the tower to Roosevelt Avenue, and the tower has lost its low pyramidal cap. Otherwise the mill stands pretty much as built, and as an important early work by William Walker. Its tower is worth noting for its bottlelike adjustment of shape from the lower stages to the generous belfry. The corbeling at the eaves is rhythmically interrupted at the piers by corbeled planes, each ornamented by an inset cross. Like deep brackets, they descend almost to the level of the springing of the segmental arches of the upper-story windows. Once the largest producer of haircloth in the world, the plant continues this production today (with plastic thread instead of animal hair), as another example of the way in which a number of small Rhode Island mills have survived within a specialty niche in the textile industry.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Pawtucket Hair Cloth Mill", [Central Falls, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

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