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Valley Queen Mill

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1834–1835, original block at center (3 stories, 22 bays), Stephen Norton and Thomas Beck, masons. 1888–1889, 2 stories, 9 bays to south, and wing to north, D. M. Thompson, engineer. 200 Providence St.

Although it was built in two stages more than fifty years apart, Valley Queen, in contrast to the clustering of many buildings at Royal Mills, appears as a single elongated entity, right-angled to the river rather than parallel to it. This positioning gives it high visibility, showing off its ashlar block and granite walls, with a nice equivalence in the relationship between wall and window openings. The extensive enlargement and modernization of Valley Queen, principally the north and south extension of the facade and ell on the east, occurred shortly after B. B. & R. Knight took control of the mill in the 1880s and used it to produce their top-of-the-line cambrics and sheetings marketed under the Fruit of the Loom label. During that building campaign the monitor roof was replaced and the tower Victorianized. As part of the collapse of the Knight textile empire in Rhode Island, the Original Bradford Soap Works acquired the mill in 1931. A firm established by two English immigrants in the 1870s to produce soaps for the textile industry, it today markets many kinds of industrial soaps, and is also a leading producer of specialty and private-brand luxury soaps.

A cast iron footbridge from the street at the top of the sloping site unusually gives entrance to the mill office at the center of the third floor. The banner which caps the tower is a more outstanding example of Victorian metalwork. The raceway and dam are beautifully maintained. The relation of the mill to the water is best observed from the precipitous wooded hill on the opposite bank, which, together with the wellkept grounds, isolates this mill from the town. The same vantage point also provides a reciprocal view of the Royal Mills upstream, its towers giving it a castlelike appearance (one of them is even crenellated). What an opportunity for a linear park, making visible the beauty of the ignored river and these monuments to an industrial past—the more compelling here because these mills continue to operate.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.


What's Nearby


William H. Jordy et al., "Valley Queen Mill", [West Warwick, 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, 328-329.

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