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Natick Mill Site and Mill Dam

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Visible from O'Donnell Ave. overlooking the Pawtuxet

Only scanty ruins remain of the range of four mills which once lined the Pawtuxet at Natick and made up a sizable component of the mid-nineteenth-century textile empire owned by the Sprague family. When the Knight brothers took over in 1882–1883, some years following the Sprague bankruptcy, their building engineer, D. M. Thompson, joined the separate buildings into a single entity and further extended it until it stretched 1,350 feet with a uniform height of six stories. It was Rhode Island's largest single mill structure, comparable in the magnitude of its elongation to the Lowell and Lawrence mills in Massachusetts or those in Manchester, New Hampshire. The Knights declared bankruptcy in 1935. The vacant mill was eventually torched on Fourth of July eve in 1941. What remains is best viewed from a wooded bluff at the Warwick border (reached by following O'Donnell Avenue to the top of the hill). This overlooks the largest mill dam in West Warwick, a granite barrier 20 feet high and 166 feet across (final rebuilding 1886), with an impressive waterfall. A wall in random rubble masonry, also impressive in height and extent, lines the opposite shore. It once retained a 50-foot-wide raceway to the mill. Crumbling walls, dimly discernible behind trees downstream, are what is left of the mill itself, much of the site now serving an auto junking business. Again one is struck, here on the bluff, by the civic design potential of an industrial site.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Natick Mill Site and Mill Dam", [West Warwick, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-WW11.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 329-329.

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