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Located on the Ashaway River, this village added textiles to gristmills and sawmills. By 1816 it had a woolen manufacturing operation, which was transformed in 1825 into a manufactory for fishing line and twine. The plant's owner named it for the river. Ashaway became a premier brand of fishing line. The ropewalk, a long, corridorlike clapboard building where the strands were “walked” from one end to the other preparatory to twisting, existed in Ashaway until the late 1970s, the last of its type in Rhode Island. Another textile factory, the Bethel Mill (c. 1850; High and West streets) continues in active manufacturing use but no longer for textiles. It has been aluminum sided but is worth attention even so, as wooden mills of its scale from the mid-nineteenth century are rare—and those still in production rarer still. Three blocks south, at Main and Church streets, a fine allée of maples cuts diagonally across a green to the First Seventh Day Baptist Church (8A Church Street), with the Hopkinton Academy adjacent. Both are Greek Revival and both rather clumsily altered through time. The civic impact of the church next to the academy is nevertheless impressive.

The village itself emanated from the riverside mills on Laurel Street south of High. Most of the workers' housing, mostly vernacular Greek Revival cottages modest in scale and altered over time, is located in the low-lying area to the west of the river. The larger houses and institutional development tended to locate up the hill to the east of the river.

Writing Credits

William H. Jordy et al.

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