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Sayles Mill Complex and Administration Building

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1855, earliest mill building. 1870s and later, dye house. c. 1875, mill office. c. 1900–1909, great warehouse. Industrial Circle, Pond Ave., Walker St.

Although the core of this industrial complex appears at first sight to be arranged in a deep, ramified U of mostly brick buildings around one end of its mill pond, these in fact tend to have their principal entrances away from the pond, facing the workaday bustle in the irregular courts that linked the complex. As in other industrial buildings of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the quality and variety of the brick here reveal its potential for handsome, functional building. Worth special attention are, first, the Italianate administration building at the southeast end of the pond (c. 1875), with arched openings and, toward the front, a long, low spreading gable crossed by two others, which a onetime bracketed cornice converts to pediments, each with an oculus (now blinded). The pediment has been aluminum sheathed, and the windows have been spoiled by aluminum replacements. Still, the laconic virtues of the building are evident: the quality of the brickwork, the well-proportioned openings, the animating effect of the arcs and circles, and the austere ornamentation of the entrance gable with its insets of brick in checkerboard patterns for roundels and as a frame around the granite slab with the date of the company's establishment.

Immediately behind is a hybrid building. At its front is a rather battered tower, all of architectural consequence that remains from the original (1855) mill. It is interesting for the pointed windows set into the big, arched openings of its side elevations—a rare fragment of early Gothic Revival for industry in Rhode Island, looking more churchly than industrial. Attached to this is perhaps the most handsome building in the complex, the 1870s dye house, with a range of exquisitely proportioned tall arches over semicircular basement openings, all framed by the double layering of the wall, with all edges elegantly incisive. From the end of this building, looking south across the mill yard, are the looming warehouses, their tiers of low, segmental-arched windows topped by corbeled cornices. Clark Sayles, the father of William and Frederic and a builder, was responsible for some (possibly most) of the buildings dating from before his death in 1885.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


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William H. Jordy et al., "Sayles Mill Complex and Administration Building", [Lincoln, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 193-193.

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