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Although it had a short-lived academy, begun in 1814, and a bank, established by 1822, Greenville was long little more than a farm and tavern village with some importance as a local transportation hub, the usual rural industry, and a small thread and twine mill. Then, in the 1840s, three manufacturers descended upon it and built mills that used the Stillwater River for power. One of these, a woolen mill on Austin Avenue close to the village center, eventually, in the twentieth century became a piece of Austin T. Levy's Stillwater Worsted empire (see Harrisville under Burrillville), before its later use by a series of firms for various purposes. Two cotton factories, one long demolished, located a little apart from the village on Putnam Pike, together created the satellite village of West Greenville. The one remaining includes buildings going back to the beginnings of Greenville's life as a textile village.

Prosperity over a long period left an impressive and varied architectural heritage of houses ranging from the colonial period through the early twentieth century. But Greenville's importance as a regional hub has wreaked havoc. Highway widening and heedless demolition or alteration for drive-in business have substantially diminished the coherence and charm that Greenville once possessed.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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