Although textile manufacture began in Greystone as early as 1813 and continued through a series of operations punctuated by fires and many changes of ownership, most of what one now sees is the result of the twentieth-century location there of the English firm of Joseph Benn and Company to avoid heavy import duties on wool. From 1904, the firm built a large mohair and alpaca plant, workers' housing for the 1,500 Yorkshire and Lancashire workers who came with it, and, of course, a cricket pitch. Most exceptionally, Benn created what might today be called (with some exaggeration) a housing megastructure which is unparalleled in the state. Although the Benn company sold out in the 1930s, textile production persists in the big mill, with some other industries in the rest of the complex.
Immediately north of the mill, a view down Oakleigh Avenue shows ranges of clapboard mill housing (1904–1910), the small, carpentered Greystone Primitive Methodist Church (1904), 1 Oakleigh Avenue, and, behind these buildings, the looming presence of one of the two mammoth brick towers of the principal mill building. Only the re-siding of the foreground buildings mars the picture. Hardly the tourist's image; but for those who take the time to look, it is among the memorable images of Rhode Island mill villages—and made more so by the war memorial in the block between Oakleigh and Greystone avenues.
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