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Peace Dale Center

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1840s–1902. Junction of Kingstown Rd. (Route 108) and North Rd.
  • Peace Dale Library (John M. Miller)

Another of Rowland Hazard's bridges of the 1880s, this one double-arched, carries Columbia Street into the center of Peace Dale. The buildings at the village center are, with one exception, of granite, matching the granite of the mills, and all built by the mill owners. Of all such village centers in the state, none presents a more condensed image of the civic dimensions of nineteenth-century industrial paternalism. Only an owner-built church and school are missing, and these are not far away. The mill buildings take the preeminent position along the top of a T-intersection, with an office and store block on one side of the stem, a library and hall on the other, and the stem aimed straight at the mill office, or Counting House.

We arrive at the center off axis, at the principal corner of the business block ( SK13.1; 1856), 1058 Kingstown Road. It still contains the village post office. Upstairs, in a former meeting hall, a museum of Indian and Alaskan relics collected by one of the Hazards (now the Museum of Primitive History) continues the tradition of the partial use of the upper floors for civic purpose. In addition to supporting all sorts of organization and village meetings in the hall, the company also sponsored programs of educational and cultural interest, perhaps under the influence of the first Rowland Gibson Hazard (in the second generation of management). Avocationally, he was a political economist and philosopher of sufficient stature to have attracted the friendship of John Stuart Mill. His venture into worker education, with the opening in 1856 of this hall hard by the mill entrance, is among the pioneer projects of its sort in America.

Although the mill employed 600 workers by 1900 (and 1,100 during World War I), the factory buildings ( SK13.2; 1844–1902), Columbia Street and Kingstown Road, are congenially scaled and clustered to the village. Except for the original mill, lost to fire, all the principal buildings remain, with some alterations, together with an exceptionally complete system of waterways. They have been nicely maintained, save for the unfortunate replacement of paned windows with plate glass, as rental property for small industry and business. Following the fire, the second generation of Hazards built a replacement on the original site. This was a low two-story building which they fronted with a towered elevation which remained as a relic of the burned building, letting this project above the new building as something of a false front. (The recent openwork at the top of the tower is coyly inappropriate; but the shuttle weathervane was always the mill emblem.) This second generation of managers used the new plant as an opportunity to shift production from rough to fine woolens. Shawls were the new specialty. Peace Dale shawls wrapped Victorian shoulders for thirty years, until the fashion waned in the 1880s and the mills turned to the production of high-quality woolen suitings.

Except for the replacement building, the front tier of granite blocks are the work of Rowland Hazard II (of the third generation of owners), together with his masons. From the replacement building west (left to right facing them), these are the 1856 mill, the 1872 worsted mill, the 1880 weaving shed behind (all with altered roofs and some top stories added by the early twentieth century, and a mansard added to top the southeast tower of the 1856 block c. 1880). These were all built under Rowland Hazard's supervision, as well as the mill office building, where he had his office. He distinguished the Counting House, as it was known, from the row behind by its hipped roof and the ornamentation of the granite by the polychromatic contrast of the somewhat disruptive brick corbeled cornice. The bracketed roof shelter over the entrance is a variant of those on the Congregational Church. Most of the brick buildings behind went up around 1902, after his death.

On a slight elevation opposite, at 1057 Kingstown Road, is the Peace Dale Library, originally Narragansett Reading Room and Library ( SK13.3; 1891, Angell and Swift; landscaping, Charles Eliot), for which Rowland Hazard and his brother John Newbold Hazard provided to honor their scholarly father, the first Rowland Gibson Hazard. For this they called on Frank W. Angell, who had already worked with Rowland Hazard II on the railroad station and presumably on workers' housing. The result was a late example of Richardsonian Romanesque immediately following Angell's design of Wilson Hall at Brown University in the same style. Looser in organization and not as finely wrought as Richardson's own work, this is nevertheless an impressive example of the style, especially in its forceful employment of Richardson's familiar centerpiece features of gable bay (here shingled at the upper story), hipped dormer, and swelling turret bay all grouped around an entrance arch, with granite steps spilling and spreading out of the cavern. The substantially intact interiors show a comfortable mixture of architectural and mill design, which suggests that the local building team was as much responsible as the architect. Attached to the rear of the library is Hazard Memorial Hall, a plain but well-proportioned shingled building on a cobblestone basement with an interior which is straightforward and sturdy timber and tie-rod mill construction. Its long-underused formal, ceremonial space, now nicely refurbished and incorporated programmatically into the library, adapts well to the wider variety of activities characteristic of libraries at the turn of the twenty-first century.

The three-tiered granite watering trough (1890) on the library grounds was originally in front of the store and office block. Water from the horse basin drains into a second-tier basin at mid-height for oxen and again to the smallest basin close to the ground for small animals. An awkward but expressive design by Rowland Hazard, it can be seen as an unintended allegory to paternalistic benevolence, whereby benefits flow from larger animals to smaller—and it is now, significantly, dry.

Finally, to this cluster of Hazard benefactions commemorating Hazard forebears, Caroline Hazard added a memorial to her father, Rowland Hazard II (the amateur architect) and her two brothers (the final, fourth-generation Hazard management team). The Weaver (1902, Daniel Chester French) is an allegorical bronze relief of life-sized figures which is among the sculptor's finest. Herself distinguished, Caroline Hazard had been president of Wellesley College and is generally credited with lifting what had been a floundering seminary into leadership in women's education. (Her presidency, incidentally, saw the addition of six new buildings to the campus, some covertly financed by her, a legacy which doubtless reflects her father's example.) Derived from Roman funerary reliefs, the memorial depicts time as a young maiden with distaff who hands the thread to a weaver, clad in sheepskin, seated before an ancient loom. The inscription reads: “Life spins the thread. Time weaves the pattern God designed. The fabric of the stuff he left to men of noble mind.” In setting, distinction, and sentiment, this is the most poignant memorial that exists to the once vaunted Rhode Island textile industry. Completed two years after the Hazards sold their mills, in effect it commemorates a century of involvement by four generations of Hazards in the industry and the community they fostered at a time when the New England industry as a whole was on the brink of disaster.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Peace Dale Center", [South Kingstown, 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, 383-385.

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