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Ashton Mill and Mill Village

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1867 (mill), 1872 (village). Store Hill Rd. and Middle, Front, Wiggin, and Weber sts.

Ashton is the third in the row of Lonsdale Company brick mills and villages on the Blackstone River (in date, slightly earlier than Berkeley). Unlike the Berkeley mill, this suffers by the infill of most of its windows, although its belfry retains its slate pyramidal roof. As in Berkeley, the tower is abstracted from historical precedent; in this instance, not a battlemented tower, but the campanile of an Italianate Romanesque brick church. The bell to call its congregation can still be seen behind the slotted, round-arched openings. Instead of the refinement of a slightly projecting frieze under the eaves, this has a series of inset panels forming symbolic parapets under each of the top-story windows, to prepare for the mansard which once topped this mill (providing a fifth story, where now there are four). Only the old company office building still retains its mansard. The horizontality of the inset panels also accords with granite moldings which run uninterrupted around the building, even crossing projecting piers. They provide a series of visual shelves on which the segmental-arched windows sit. This countering of the verticality of the window stacks by such extensive stone banding is infrequent in Rhode Island, and is probably exceptional everywhere. Uniquely, entrance to the mill is through a boxlike entrance building into a tunnel and under the railroad tracks which traverse the front of the factory.

The village at Ashton is as well preserved as that at Berkeley and, like it, is stretched across the mill front—but here closer to the factory, thereby making the most dramatic confrontation of mill and housing in the state. Again, apparent identity among the houses at first glance subsequently reveals considerable variety. Ashton housing, however, shows more uniformity than that at Berkeley: one-and-one-half-story duplexes to the south side of the town; two-and-one-half-story four-unit houses toward the northern end; two long row houses, one and one-half stories and two and one-half stories, along one side of Middle Street. Most interesting are four-unit houses fronting the factory with entrances at either end of the fronts for downstairs units and entrances at either side for two units above, like those on the Lincoln side of Lonsdale (see LI5). The roofs of these units were later raised to provide for more attic space; hence the tiny square lights under the eaves.

Ashton village provides a fine elevational view of the highway viaduct (see the following entry), which is unfortunately obscured by a metal-sheathed shed for a conveyor belt that runs through one of the arches—a relic of the time when this mill served as the fabrication operation for the Fiberglas furnace nearby.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.

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