This structure was constructed in 1893 and reflects the need for water-generated power during the Industrial Revolution. At this time, governments and private businesses negotiated the concept of rights-of-way on waterways as well as competition for natural resources and controlling sections of waterways and the flow of water. Darius Goff and his sons Darius II & Lyman paid local governments for control of water & water flow in Pawtucket during the 1890s as part of their effort to build an expansive industrial district that could be powered by this facility which was known as the Bridge Mill Power Plant. Though their original plan to build a massive industrial complex did not materialize, the plant became part of the Pawtucket Electric Company and helped generate power to the area through the 1960s.
The Bridge Mill Power Plant (1893-94) is located on the western bank of the Seekonk River roughly 125 feet below Pawtucket Falls. This facility once served a part of a densely built-up industrial section of Pawtucket near the town's commercial hub. The Bridge Mill Power Plant stands as the last remaining building built in the nineteenth century, a reminder of a time when the industrial revolution highly affected culture including inspiring society to figure out ways to "own" water and water flow, as well as treat it as part of a "machine."
When built, the Bridge Mill Plant generated electricity via water and/or steam power. The red brick flat-roofed building rises three stories at its highest points and is comprised of three principal sections -- the gatehouse, powerhouse, and boiler house. The small, north block of the building contains the gates and hoists required to control the flow of water into the powerhouse, located in the central portion of the building and where five pairs of 33-inch turbines once operated. dominate the central portion. Meanwhile, steam engines located in the boiler room served as a backup for providing energy to the turbines during the dry season.
In the mid-1880s, members of the Goff family of Pawtucket began buying up the various small lots and the much-divided water privileges on the western side of Pawtucket Falls with the intention of developing a grand commercial and manufacturing district. Thus, the Goff family required the construction of a plant able to generate power to a host of industrial buildings. However, the plant appears to have been the only piece of the Goff's broader plan to have come to fruition. Shortly after the plant's completion, the Goff-owned Bridge Mill Power Company merged into the Pawtucket Electric Lighting Company (owned by the Pawtucket Gas Company) to form the new Pawtucket Electric Company.
Kline, Benjamin, Ph.D. First Along the River: A Brief History of the U.S. Environmental Movement. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 2011.
Malone, Patrick M. Waterpower in Lowell: Engineering and Industry in Nineteenth-Century America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2009.
Roper, Stephan J. "Nomination Form: Historic Resources of Pawtucket, Rhode Island. (Partial Inventory: Historic and Architectural Properties.), pp. 144-7. National Register of Historic Places. December, 1980. http://www.preservation.ri.gov/pdfs_zips_downloads/national_pdfs/pawtucket/pawt_historic-resources-of-pawtucket-text.pdf
Steinberg, Ted. Nature Incorporated: Industrialization and the Waters of New England. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachuesetts Press, 1994.