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Georgiaville

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Architecturally, this is the most interesting mill village in Smithfield, and among the most interesting in the state. Manufacturing at this location began with an iron forge shortly before the Revolution. John Farnum, together with his sons Joseph and Noah, set up the forge at a site on what is now Old Forge Road, using ore from Cranston. Not until 1813, however, when the Georgia Manufacturing Company erected a textile factory (expanded in 1828 and 1846) did Georgiaville's history as an industrial town properly begin. And not until the arrival of Zachariah Allen, one of the leading and most progressive industrialists of the early and mid-nineteenth century, did Georgiaville attain high visibility as an important textile village. He expanded his Allendale operations (see under Allendale in North Providence) by purchasing the original Georgiaville textile plant and using it as an adjunct to the new mill he erected. In front of this mill he built two four-story tenement buildings as well as other housing, and rehabilitated what was already there. He also commissioned a charming stone Gothic Revival chapel for his workers, perhaps from Thomas Tefft, who had designed a Tudor Revival schoolhouse for him at Allendale ( NP4). The chapel was demolished sometime after World War II, but Henry-Russell Hitchcock's Rhode Island Architecturepreserves a view of it. Allen envisioned a verdant village: trees along the streets and a twoacre meadow to be converted into a “very ornamental central village square” with houses along one side. At or just below the dam, he even transformed a wooded ravine by quarrying the bedrock to create a series of cascades.

But the idyll soon perished. Allen, overextended financially, was bankrupted by the Panic of 1857. A series of other manufacturers took over his plant and eventually built another of brick along with more houses for a succession of Irish, French Canadian, and, finally, Italian and Portuguese immigrants. This expansion fortunately left the original nucleus of the village a little apart. Later structures made minimal intrusion—until the location nearby of a sizable housing complex for the elderly in the mid-1980s. The factory complex itself became condominiums after 1987.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.

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