New Entry on the National Register from Central Falls

MAKING INDUSTRIAL HISTORY IN CENTRAL FALLS:AMERICAN SUPPLY COMPANY LISTED ON THE NATIONAL REGISTER

American Supply Company

Press Release from the RIHPHC:   A factory in Central Falls has received federal recognition for its contributions to the history of industry. Jeffrey Emidy, Acting Executive Director of the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission, announced that the National Park Service has added the American Supply Company plant to the National Register of Historic Places. The National Register is the Federal Government’s official list of properties throughout the United States whose historical and architectural significance makes them worthy of preservation. Built in 1875, American Supply Company is a significant example of a factory and supply house that supported the expanding textile industry in the late 19th century.

The American Supply Company is a vernacular, industrial building sited on a roughly one-acre lot on the south bank of the Blackstone River in Central Falls. This wood-frame building stands two-and-one-half stories tall on a fieldstone foundation. The gable roof features continuous shed dormers on its north and south slopes, and there is a square three-story stair-and- elevator tower on the south elevation. The interior retains its original materials and plan, with exposed timber framing, wood floors, and (sided-over) original sash.

In early cotton mills, loom harness—wire structures mounted on wood frames for use in power looms—were manufactured in-house. By the 1830s, loom harness fabrication emerged as a subsidiary industry to textile manufacturing. Myron Fish (1849-1929), a loom harness maker in Worcester, Massachusetts, was invited by the Valley Falls Company, a major Rhode Island textile manufacturer, to relocate his business to leased space in their Cumberland plant around 1870. Having an in-house maker of loom harness and other loom components gave the Valley Falls Company a competitive edge.

Myron Fish & Co.
Myron Fish & Co.

In 1875, Myron Fish and Company erected its own two-and-one-half-story, steam-powered, 40’ x 80’ factory building on land owned by the Valley Falls Company across the river in Lincoln (now part of Central Falls). The firm expanded its services to include leather belting (for driving machinery) and a wide range of supplies for cotton, woolen, and silk mills. By 1880 there were three divisions of a thriving operation. The belting works, capitalized at $7,000, employed four male operatives and produced $26,350 in finished goods. The reed works, capitalized at $2,500, employed four male operatives and produced $6,925 in finished goods. The harness works, capitalized at $27,400, employed 11 male and 7 female operatives and produced $20,330 in finished goods.

In 1883, Myron Fish & Company merged with another loom harness company (established by John Kendrick in 1846), to form the American Supply Company. In 1890, the firm purchased the land it had been leasing from the Valley Falls Company and expanded the physical plant with the construction of a perpendicular, 176’ x 40’ wing and a three-story brick power house off the rear of the original building, replacing an original, smaller ell. By 1891, American Supply Company was producing annually $400,000 worth of manufactured goods and employing 100 operatives.

Changing conditions in the New England textile economy, most notably southern competition and the devastation of the Great Depression, forced the closure of American Supply Company in 1961. The building remained vacant until Central Braid and Rug Company relocated there in 1963 and remained until 1991. By the mid-1990s, the sole tenant of the building was a street-level ice cream shop, the Scoop at the Falls.

The American Supply Company plant and its site have been targeted for riverfront redevelopment since at least the late 1990s. Toward that goal, a boat launch and a large dock adjacent to the building were constructed. The Blackstone Valley Tourism Council uses the site as the home base of its Samuel Slater canal boat and Blackstone Valley Explorer tours. Now owned by the City of Central Falls, the historic mill building is vacant and under consideration for adaptive reuse.

The National Register nomination for the American Supply Company was prepared by preservation consultant Ned Connors. RIHPHC’s Acting Executive Director Jeffrey Emidy commented, “In Rhode Island, we typically associate large, brick textile factory complexes with our industrial heritage. Smaller factories like the American Supply Company building played a pivotal role in producing the machinery that was required for those textile plants to function. This modest building is a rare survivor of an industrial supply house, and it is a promising building for redevelopment.”

In addition to honoring a property for its contribution to local, state, or national history, listing on the National Register provides additional benefits. It results in special consideration during the planning of Federal or federally assisted projects and makes properties eligible for Federal and Rhode Island tax benefits for historic rehabilitation projects. Owners of private property listed on the National Register are free to maintain, manage, or dispose of their property as they choose. As the state office for historic preservation, the Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission is responsible for reviewing and submitting Rhode Island nominations to the National Register.

The Eclipse is Coming!

7:00 p.m.
Tuesday, August 1, 2017
BVHS, North Gate
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865 

This image of the moon crossing in front of the sun was captured on Jan. 30, 2014, by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory observing an eclipse from its vantage point in space. Credits: NASA

On the evening of August 1, Francine Jackson, astronomer, will give a talk on the upcoming solar eclipse.

For the first time in almost a century, a total eclipse of the sun will be visible across a wide path across North America on August 21, 2017. We will be experiencing a partial eclipse in Rhode Island.  Learn all about it with Francine Jackson, NASA Solar System Ambassador, staff astronomer at Ladd Observatory, and Skyscrapers, Inc., public relations person. This event is free and all are welcome.

 

If it is a clear night, you could extend your astronomical evening by visiting Ladd Observatory at Brown University.  They are open to the public free of charge from 9:00 p.m.-10:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings,  weather permitting.

BVHS’s Annual Tour of Cogswell Tower

6:30 pm, June 28, 2017

Cogswell Tower
Cogswell Tower. Photo by Dan Bethel

Bob Ferri will give a tour of Cogswell Tower. We will climb up behind the clock, and also visit the grotto beneath the tower. We will meet at the Jenks Park front entrance at 580 Broad Street, Central Falls, RI. 02863 at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 28.

This tour is free and all are welcome.  Please join us.

 

The Smith-Appleby House has an exhibit entitled A History of the Esmond Mills, 1909-1948: An interactive exhibit of mill memorabilia, featuring the extensive private collection of Sandra Achille.  The exhibit is open June 17th, 11:00 am-4:00 pm; June 21st, 5:00-8:00 p.m.; and Saturday, June 24, 11:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.


Also,  check out the Blackstone River Valley National Historic Park’s  free summer Ranger Walkabouts.  The following is from their calendar of events.

Thursday, June 15, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Ranger Walkabout: A Landscape with a View – Mills, Canals, Railroads & Organizers.

Location: Monument Square, Blackstone, MA 01504.  Parking:  in the new Blackstone Greenway parking lot

Grab your best walking shoes and join us for a “Walk with a View” as we enjoy the summer evening and take a look at a landscape contorted to meet the needs of a growing community and a growing nation.  From the development of early mills to building a canal, then a railroad, to building a community, a hike along the just completed section of the Blackstone Greenway will reveal a lot about a growing America.

Thursday, June 22, 2017, 6:30 p.m. Getting America Moving: Trains and Canals.

Location: 49 Central Street, across the street from St. John’s Episcopal Church, Millville, MA 01529 Parking:  in MA-DCR Blackstone Greenway parking lot on Central Street Millville, MA

A good evening walk will take us deep into the development of a regional transportation system.  Hidden deep in the woods along the Blackstone River, we’ll stroll along the top of the Millville Lock and see the connection between a canal tow path and the railroad tracks. We’ll also discover how a Bikeway becomes an outstanding preservation tool.

Wear your good hiking/walking shoes for we will be getting off the Bikeway to walk down to the river over woodland, often uneven, trail.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Technology, Industrialization and the Landscape

Blackstone Valley Historical Society Annual Meeting

May 21, 2017
1:30 p.m. Annual Meeting with Elections of Officers. 
2:00 p.m. Annual Christine Nowak Lecture

Gail Mohanty, PhD,  will give the annual Christine Nowak Memorial Lecture. Her topic will be Technology, Industrialization and the Landscape.

“Looking East from Denny’s Hill” by Ralph Earl, c. 1800. Oil on Canvas, Worcester Art Museum

Her talk will trace the changes from the late 18th century through the first half of the 20th century using a series of landscape paintings as evidence of changes to the environment.

The availability of land in the New World and its seemingly untamed character led the settlers to acquire land, clear it of trees, and create fields and farms. In this way, they attempted to duplicate what was familiar and prized in their homeland.

“The Starrucca Viaduct” by Jasper Cropsey, c. 1865. Oil on Canvas, Toledo Museum of Art

By the 18th century, these transplanted European residents continued to idealize the pastoral landscape, and artists depicted the results in paint and print.  By the end of the 18th century, a more diverse economy began to be developed, including some manufacturing and mining. By the first half of the 19th century the introduction of built elements to the environment were also incorporated into visual art.

Dr. Mohanty is a native Rhode Islander who returned to the state in 1990, working at Slater Mill Historic Site initially, and then turned to teaching in 2001. She is currently an Adjunct Faculty member in the History and Social Studies Department at Bryant University and Senior Lecturer, Liberal Arts at the Rhode Island School of Design.

 

 

 

Blackstone Valley History through Ephemera: From Dan Bethel’s Collection

2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
April 23, 2017
Blackstone Valley Historical Society
North Gate Downstairs
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865

Don’t miss this exhibit!  It will be one of Dan’s largest.   See pictures, documents and other ephemera from the past.  All are welcome.  The exhibit is free; donations are gratefully accepted.  Some photos from the exhibit:

Picture of jockey: Lincoln Downs
The Cumberland Oval near Martin Street. Postcard of the audience at a baseball game.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rt. 116
Mem:orial Day Ceremony at Wilbur Road Bridge (dedicated to Harry Speight) (BVHS in the background)

 

News Posts

Help needed for Ken Postle’s Cemetery Restoration Work:  With the spring fast approaching, Ken is in need of some new tools, gloves,and epoxy to repair the gravestones. We are asking for small donations of maybe $5 or $10. As you know,  we rarely ask for donations, but the Cemetery Fund  is low, so please consider donating.

Please send your tax deductible donation to BVHS, P.O Box 125, Lincoln R.I 02865 and mention cemetery recovery project. Thank you for being a part of this great work!

Ken has been nominated for a Historic Preservation Award by the Attleboro Historical Commission.  There will be a presentation at Attleboro City Hall on May 8 at 7 p.m.


Art ShowSaturday April 22, 11:00 am -5:00 pm
North Gate, 1873 Old Louisquisset Pike, Lincoln, RI  02865

Local artists James Voyer and his daughter Meg Voyer will display and have for sale fine art originals. Mediums include watercolor, oil, acrylics, and photography.

This is not a BVHS exhibit, but please come and enjoy the artwork.

Don’t miss Dan Bethel’s exhibit on April 23!  (See previous post).   It will be one of his largest and most interesting exhibits ever on the Blackstone Valley.

On March 19, Joseph Coduri gave a presentation at BVHS about Rhode Island train Stations through post cards from the early 20th century.  He also collects post cards with images of Rhode Island Trolleys.  Here is a postcard from his collection that is marked  “RR Trestle in Lincoln, RI”  The walking path through the Nature Conservancy Park on Wilbur Road is part of the old trolley line.

The Annual Meeting of the BVHS will be held from 1:30 p.m.-2:00 p.m. on May 21, 2017. It will be followed by the Christine Nowak Lecture at 2:15 p.m., which will be given by Gail Mohanty, Adjunct Professor of Bryant University, Technology and the Landscape.  Light Refreshments after the lecture.  Please stop by.

Blackstone Valley History through Ephemera-from Dan Bethel’s Collection


2:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m. 

April 23, 2017
Blackstone Valley Historical Society
North Gate Downstairs
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865

A grand exhibit showcasing collector Dan Bethel’s newest finds,  including photos of the Manville Mill,  an early artist’s rendition of the Lincoln Mall, and ephemera and photos from Lincoln Downs.  Don’t miss this!

 

Blackstone River Watershed Council’s Spring Speaker Schedule

Natural History on the Blackstone
Programs on the Natural Wonders of the Blackstone Valley

All programs will be held at:
Friends of the Blackstone River Environmental Center
100 New River Road
Lincoln, RI  02865

Please call Judy Hadley at 401-724-5292 or treelady@cox.net for more information or to register.

 

Spring Stargazing: 8:00 PM, Friday, March 31, 2017 

A stargazing talk with telescopes available for viewing afterwards. Francine Jackson, staff astronomer at Brown University’s Ladd Observatory, will speak about stars and planets observable in the spring night sky.

Fossils and Geology of the Blackstone River Basin: 3:00 PM,  Sunday, April 23, 2017  
Talk by Steve Emma, former adjunct professor of Botany at URI. Steve will bring along several examples of fossils from the area.

Birds of the Blackstone River: 2:00 PM, Sunday, May 7, 2017 
Talk by Roseanne Sherry, Master Gardener and local bird expert, which will be followed by a brief walk for those who are able.

Graphic from Blackstone River Watershed Council.

 

Rhode Island Railroad Stations: Post Card Views at the Turn of the 20th Century.

2:00 p.m.  March 19, 2017
Blackstone Valley Historical Society
North Gate Toll House
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865

Joseph Coduri, author of “Rhode Island Railroad Stations: Post Card Views at the Turn of the 20th Century” will be giving a presentation based on his book.  Using images from vintage post cards, Mr. Coduri will illustrate the role the railroads played in early twentieth century life in Rhode Island.  The railroads linked Rhode Island’s villages and connected them to the shoreline communities. Please join us!  This program is free and the public is welcome.  Donations are gratefully accepted.  Image is from the book, showing postcard views of the Westerly and Apponaug stations.

About the author:  Joseph E. Coduri received his Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Rhode Island and began this career on the staff of the University’s Bureau of Government Research working with cities and towns throughout Rhode Island.

After 14 years he left the academic environment and became a Supervisor of Local Government Assistance for the State of Rhode Island. Joe retired in 2013 after a 45-year career in State service.

Joe has been collecting post cards of Rhode Island for the past 35 years, and since 1988 he has chaired or co-chaired the very successful Annual Exhibit & Show of the Rhode Island Post Card Club. His first goal in retirement was to produce Rhode Island Railroad Stations: Post Card Views at the Turn of  the 20th Century.  Joe and his wife Joan reside in Warwick, Rhode Island

 

Exhibit: “Snapshots of the Blackstone Valley” by Dan Bethel

3:00-5:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 26, 2017
North Gate
Blackstone Valley Historical Society
1873 Old Louisquisset Pike
Lincoln, RI  02865

 

Don’t miss the work of Lincoln’s favorite amateur photographer.  Please stop by for refreshments and to meet the artist.

Pawtucket Times interview with Dan Bethel