Harrisville, the administrative center of Burrillville, is among the most interesting rural mill towns in the state. It is not its extant mill complex, however, that makes it so. Nineteenth-century mill buildings have been mostly superseded by nondescript twentieth-century replacements, although the dominating building in the complex is a fascinating example of early reinforced concrete factory construction. Harrisville today is more exceptional as the center of the community activities of Austin T. Levy, the enlightened head of the sizable Stillwater Worsted Company, which had mills in several towns in northwestern Rhode Island. Levy leased several Harrisville mills in 1912 (purchasing all of them in 1921), after their operation for two generations by William Tinkham and his son Ernest. Stillwater Worsted continued operations until 1972, but with increasing difficulty in the face of the general collapse of the textile industry in the state. Levy was among the leaders of the last generation of Rhode Island textile barons.
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