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Peace Dale

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Although Wakefield, Peace Dale, and Rocky Brook are today merged into a regional urban area, Peace Dale still retains the clearest sense of its village character. It has its shambly commercial district, and incessant traffic winds through it. Recent development has spoiled much, partly by remodeling, partly by prettifying; but at least efforts have been made to preserve the village identity, which remains substantial. In fact, Peace Dale, Slatersville, and Harrisville (see under Burrillville) provide the most visible surviving remnants of enlightened efforts to create ideal village environments for industry in Rhode Island. Of these, Slatersville and Harrisville present predominantly Colonial, Greek Revival, and Neo-Colonial images. Peace Dale is Victorian. It is largely the work and vision of one of the third generation of the mill-owning Hazard family, Rowland Hazard II. Together with the mill mason Kneeland Portelow and his firm, and occasionally working with the Providence professional Frank Angell, this amateur architect was responsible for several masonry mill buildings; the village center complex of office and store buildings, library, and meeting hall; five stone-arched bridges over the unusually well-preserved water system which webs the village; a church; the railroad station; and much worker housing. Rowland Hazard favored the plain style of his South Kingstown Town Hall ( SK7) but employed it with a fine sense of building and an intuitive awareness of the expressive possibilities inherent in a sensible, solid style. His work, which dates from roughly the mid-1850s to the late 1870s, was augmented by benefactions of other members of the family. The family lived in a parklike enclave of houses, screened from the mill, but using the millpond as a focus.

The Hazard dynasty at Peace Dale began around 1805 when Rowland Hazard I acquired a gambrel-roofed farmhouse of c. 1790 on a site between a millpond and a small wool fulling mill. It was he who gave the village its pretty name—not, however, solely to signal a benign social order, although the Hazards were originally Quakers; Peace was his wife's maiden name. The psychic heart of the enclave, the farmhouse, came to be know as “The Cottage” or “The Homestead.” With enlargements in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, it remains a charming, rambling mélange reflecting changes in style and function over the generations which have inhabited it. Eventually, the enclave contained six major houses, only three now extant. Among those lost were one known as Oakwood (1853–1857), designed in the Italian Villa Style by Thomas Tefft, and Holly House (1892), a mid-century Gothic Revival house remodeled by McKim, Mead and White in a severe Tudor Revival manner—a style rare for this firm, with its classical predispositions. The family would have known the firm for their design of the Casino at Narragansett Pier (see under Narragansett), where Hazards owned much of the real estate, and for their selection as the architects of the Rhode Island State House, for which a Hazard was on the building committee. Of the extant buildings, Lily Pad (partly 1860, partly later) is another of the survivors—but just barely, having been ruthlessly altered, first as a Catholic convent, then as an office center. Aside from The Homestead, only The Acorns (an offshoot of demolished Oakwood) can properly be said to survive. A subdivision now occupies the former domain of the Hazards.

Immediately adjacent to the domestic enclave, Rowland Hazard enlarged the fulling mill and added processes to realize, in 1813, the first integrated woolen mill in the state, handling all phases of manufacture from raw material to finished product. (Similar integration in Rhode Island cotton manufacturing occurred two years later.) The destruction of the original plant by fire in 1844, and its subsequent rebuilding encouraged the second generation of Hazard owners, Isaac Peace and Rowland Gibson, to shift from coarse linseywoolsey and jeans to fine woolens. The family bought into the chemical business toward the end of the nineteenth century, becoming the American patentees for the Belgium Solvay ammonia process. Their chemical plants were built ouside Rhode Island, close to supplies. The Hazard interests increasingly moved toward chemicals and away from textiles. A major strike in 1906 shook a family which had always seen itself as having a high-minded view of workers and their welfare. Rowland Gibson, of the second generation, who preferred his considerable intellectual activities to business, wrote essays on the ideal relationship between owners and workers. Rowland II, of the third generation, the amateur architect, introduced plans for workers' sick care, a pension fund, and, finally, in the early 1890s, an unsuccessful plan for profit sharing based on the Rochdale principle. Embitterment, new business interests, and the difficulty of competing with new, large-scale operations in the textile industry led the Hazards to sell their mills in 1918 after the death of the fourth generation of its management. Benefactions to the village from family members who continued to live in the area did not end until around 1930. The family enclave was sold for development only in the late 1960s. The legacy of Hazard endeavors, however, continues to be pervasive in Peace Dale.

Writing Credits

Author: 
William H. Jordy et al.

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