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Crompton Mill

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1897, Mill No. 1. 1828, Mill No. 2. 1832, Mill No. 3. 1876, mansard roofs added to Mills No. 2 and No. 3, L. & C. Walker. 1882–1885, Mill No. 4 (Velvet Mill), Stone and Carpenter. Main St. (Mill No. 1), others off Pulaski St.

Architecturally, the Crompton Mill is the finest of West Warwick's mills, and one of the splendid mill spectacles in the state. Crompton is another famous Rhode Island brand name: What Fruit of the Loom was to sheetings and percales, Crompton was to corduroys, velvets (marketed under the Century label), and velveteens. Crompton and Century are still leading brand names, but the fabrics are no longer manufactured in Rhode Island. The place was first known as Stone Factory for the original stone mill (which came to be known as Mill No. 1 in the eventual Crompton complex), built on the east bank of the river in 1807. This and other buildings were purchased in 1823 by a business consortium, reorganized from a previous Crompton company. The corporation was named for Samuel Crompton, the inventor of the spinning mule. Its specialty was bleaching, calico printing, and dyeing. It built Mills No. 2 and No. 3. The Providence calico printer George M. Richmond gained the controlling interest in the Crompton Company in 1866 and shifted production to velvets and corduroys. His was the first American venture into domestic manufacture of what had hitherto been imported from Europe. Richmond capped his mill complex with the dominating Velvet Mill in 1882–1885.

The 1807 mill, on the east bank of the river, a three-story stone mill with a squat projecting tower, has been all but swallowed up by surrounding additions. It has been alleged to be the first stone mill in Rhode Island; it is probably not, but it is among the earliest. On Pulaski Street a rise gives an overall view of the grandest part of the complex, on the west side of the river with the dam between. It is one of the most picturesque mill views in the state. Two low stone buildings (four and two stories) in an angled relationship with one another, each with its later mansarded roof and tower, are topped by the five-story Velvet Mill, 70 feet wide and 260 feet long, looming on the hill behind. The block is sufficiently large and its site sufficiently conspicuous so that it overwhelms the potential of the smooth, textureless stucco surface and the small windows to diminish its impact. It is, however, the force of its projecting tower, cornered in giant solitary crenellations, more like animal horns than anything architectural, and quoined like the block itself in red granite, that makes it memorable. The ensemble appears as an industrial castle. Openings in the front face and one side of the tower are formally and compellingly composed; on the other side they are distributed more functionally. (Only a few years earlier, its architects, Stone & Carpenter, had completed another great Victorian masonry mill in nearby Anthony (see entry for Coventry Mill).

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.
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Citation

William H. Jordy et al., "Crompton Mill", [West Warwick, Rhode Island], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—, http://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/RI-01-WW19.

Print Source

Buildings of Rhode Island, William H. Jordy, with Ronald J. Onorato and William McKenzie Woodward. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, 332-333.

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