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North Smithfield

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North Smithfield emerged as a separate town in 1871. Like Central Falls, Lincoln, and a portion of Woonsocket, it too had until then been submerged within a much larger Smithfield. The first settlement of consequence within present-day North Smithfield was established toward the end of the seventeenth century, when the area was politically a piece of Smithfield, but in reality a remote clearing known as the “North Woods” of Providence. Quakers settled what is now Union Village. A meeting of major highways in and near the village made it a professional and cultural center for the area, which it remained throughout the first half of the nineteenth century. A street of fine late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century houses is its architectural legacy. Farther west and north, the Branch River provided for the manufacturing villages of Waterford (at the Massachusetts border where the Branch joins the Blackstone), then (moving up-river) Branch Village, Forestdale, and Slatersville. Of these, Waterford (now virtually merged with the village of Blackstone, Massachusetts) has little left of architectural interest, while Branch Village has all but disappeared. Forestdale contains some interesting architectural survivors (though not its mill). Slatersville, however, merits special attention. Of all attempts to create model mill villages in Rhode Island, it remains architecturally the most attractive, not only for its buildings, but, as important, for their arrangement as a community on a steeply sloping site. This band of villages across the northern edge of North Smithfield, just south of the Massachusetts border, contrasts with the rest of the town, which was formerly agricultural and, since the 1950s, has been largely suburbanized. Some sense of the agricultural past remains in an occasional early farmhouse, or, more rarely, along stretches of lesser-traveled roads—most evidently in a line of modest 1780s–1840s farmhouses along Grange Road.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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