History of Pawtucket Rhode Island Walking Tour
This walking tour is a work in progress- more entries will be added this fall.
The five-story, Colonial Romanesque Revival style, Pawtucket Times Building was completed in 1895 and served as the headquarters of the Pawtucket Times, the longest running newspaper in Pawtucket history. The paper started in 1885 as an evening paper during a time when cities of this size usually had several numerous competing newspapers. the Pawtucket Times emerged as the most commercially successful of nearly twelve other papers in the city. The times remained independent and locally owned until 1957 when it was acquired by New England Newspapers Incorporated.
Fredric Clark Sayles, the first mayor of Pawtucket, gifted the Deborah Cook Sayles Library to the city in 1898. After first providing the land, he traveled to Europe and sought architectural inspiration from Europe’s grand libraries. The builders laid the cornerstone on November 18, 1899, and the library opened to the public three years later on October 15, 1902, named for the mayor's late wife, Deborah Cook Sayles. The library is inspired by ancient Greek architecture and was renown for its progressive and permissive attitude towards patrons. While many libraries in the late 19th century were only accessible to subscribing members, this library operated under what was known as an "open shelf" policy. The library was also known for its policy of allowing children to use the library and hours of operation that included Sundays for to accommodate mill workers.
Now a part of the Pawtucket Public Library, the Gerald S. Burns Building was the city's official post office from 1896 (when it was built) to the 1940s. It was designed by notable architects William Martin Aiken and James Knox Taylor, both of whom were supervising architects of the United States Treasury Department and many other federal buildings around the country. They designed it in the Beau Arts style, which gained popularity after the Chicago World's Fair, which took place in 1893. The building features many distinguishing elements including the dome, arches, and two Doric columnns at what was the former entrance. When it was built, citizens considered it an affirmation of Pawtucket's importance as one of the nation's key industrial centers and as a symbol of its prosperity of growth during the previous century (cotton milling began here in the early 1790s). It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976.
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.
Slater Mill Museum preserves the site and equipment of the first water-powered cotton spinning mill in North America. The Pawtucket Mill was based on smuggled designs brought to America and based on the system designed in England by Richard Arkwright. The mill used drawing, carding and spinning machines and a system where jobs were divided into smaller tasks to make assembly more efficient. The original mill was built in 1793, but more demand prompted the owners to expand the mill over time. The museum complex includes two other historic sites: the Sylvanus Brown House and the Wilkinson Mill. The mill complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Pawtucket City Hall is one of the city's most recognizable landmarks. It was built in 1935 and designed by architect John F. O'Malley in the Art Deco style. The main body of the building is three stories tall and the tower reaches a height of 209 feet. It was the first and one of the largest state projects completed under the National Recovery Act of 1933, which established the public works programs of the New Deal initiative started by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The building holds further significance in that it was an early example of city hall where all city functions were located, which was a novel idea at the time. This consolidation of city departments into one building can be attributed to the mayor during the 1930s, Mayor Thomas P. McCoy, who earned the nickname "Boss" for his grip on power which lasted 22 years. Among his achievements was leading the effort to construct the new city hall building.
Now known as the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center, this historic building stands prominently at the corner of Exchange and Fountain Streets. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, it was built in 1895 and designed by the prominent Providence the architecture firm William R. Walker & Son. Its two circular towers and crenelated parapets give the armory a castle-like appearance, which is appropriate given its military history. The building has been the home of the Tower Light Infantry of Pawtucket, the Kearny Light Infantry, Company G2 Regiment Infantry of Cedar Falls and the Pawtucket Horse Guards First Cavalry Battalion. Today, in its current iteration as the Pawtucket Armory Arts Center, the armory is host to performing arts, events and weddings.
Situated prominently on a triangle-shaped intersection, Temple of Restoration Pentecostal Church, formerly Pawtucket Congregational Church, was built in 1868. It was designed by architect John Stevens and is the finest example of a church designed in the combined Romanesque and Italianate styles still standing in Rhode Island. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 and is a contributing property to the Quality Hill Historic District, which is also listed on the register.
Pawtucket's Main Street Bridge was erected in 1858 and spans the Blackstone River at Pawtucket Falls. Although it is only forty feet wide, this bridge continues to serve as one of the primary river crossings in Pawtucket and is believed to be the oldest operating highway bridge in the state. The Main Street Bridge is also the first masonry bridge to span the river and replaced several wooden structures that date back to the early 1700s.