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Privilege Mill Housing

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1864–1865. 26 and 74–112 Farm St. (between Temple and North Main sts.), 714 and 724–730 North Main St., 625 Winter St.

The Harris Woolen Company built eighty of these units to provide housing for its workers in the Privilege Mill complex, which then existed at the foot of the hill. What remains is the finest extant mill housing for nonsupervisory workers in Woonsocket. The houses continue the tradition of the Federal vernacular type found at the earlier housing of the Globe Mills ( WO16), but in brick rather than wood. The granite foundations, the stone lintels over the windows, and the deep recesses of the doorways, lighted by very narrow transoms and side lights, reinforce the sense of solidity. They seem to depend on the Massachusetts tradition of brick mill housing that extended along the Blackstone River in Rhode Island and is today most vividly evident in Lonsdale, Berkeley, and Ashton (see under Cumberland). The six-bay houses that line both sides of Farm Street originally contained three rental units each, one on the first floor and two units above cutting through the attic. Number 26 Farm Street (now separated from the others) differs from them. It is smaller and set gable end to the street. Below on North Main Street is a row of small, one and one-half-story double house variants. At 625 Winter Street is a single-family house with cross gables, probably for an overseer. The latter two were built a little later than the others. (Beyond the Winter Street intersection, at 373 North Main, is a brick building which served as the company store and eventually as a warehouse [1865]. Housing aside, it is architecturally the most important extant building from the original building campaign.)

To build his mill and housing, Edward Harris established his own brick kilns and sawmill on the site. Although buildings of the Privilege Mill complex still exist down the Farm Street hill, they are of later date or so altered that the crown of Harris's career can no longer be said to exist. The Privilege Mill is important, however, not only for its housing, but also because Harris specifically recruited his workers from French Canada, thereby initiating the influx of French Canadians into Woonsocket, although Irish apparently continued to predominate in his work force.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Privilege Mill Housing", [Woonsocket, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-WO30.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 234-235.

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