As a manufacturing village, Hope was first important for its ironworks. A site for the furnace was purchased in 1766 by the four Brown brothers of Providence—Nicholas, Joseph, John, and Moses—together with other investors, including Stephen Hopkins, a former governor, and Israel Wilkinson, former owner of Unity Furnace. The venture was named Hope Furnace for the mother of the Brown brothers. Initially producing such items as potash, kitchenware, nails, and cask hinges, the furnace turned to cannon during the Revolution. Between 1778 and 1781 some 270 cannon were cast and bored at Hope, most to arm American privateers. Thereafter the profitability of such a small operation declined rapidly and the furnace property was sold in 1806. The very same year saw the first cotton manufacturing at Hope by other entrepreneurs. But the Brown absence from Hope was brief.
Brown investment (now as Brown and Ives) returned to Hope in 1821 when these Providence entrepreneurs bought out the original owners of the cotton mill and built another. Most of this early complex burned in 1844. (From this period, however, a small, one-story clapboard mill building, a mere three windows in length, with a gabled monitor, existed in the mill yard until 1989, when it too, succumbed to fire.) With minor reorganization, in which John Carter Brown and two Ives brothers (Moses Brown and Robert H.) were joined by yet another Providence investor, Charlotte R. Goddard, the ruined mill was replaced by the centerpiece of the existing complex.
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