If you’ve been following along with me these past few years, then you know my love of the American industrial Revolution, King Phillips War and scenery of the Blackstone River Valley. So now imagine my excitement when I visit a place where they all come together so beautifully within this modern marvel of a park that you know just became on of my favorite places.
The centerpiece of the park, The Ashton Mill was built in 1810 in Cumberland Rhode Island for the Smithfield Cotton Company. The mill was built in this location to harness the power of the Blackstone River, one of America’s few Heritage Rivers that was named after William Blackstone who was an original founder and settler of Boston Massachusetts.
The company struggled and eventually sold the mill to the Lonsdale Company in approx. 1840. Lonsdale was a manufacturer of textiles and had tremendous success throughout the remainder of the 19th century.
Eventually it became a mill village as family housing was constructed. The mill employed men, women and children so family housing was a great need.
In 1848 the Providence and Worcester railroad was built to pass directly at front door of the mill. This provided a secondary mode of transportation to get goods to customers on time.
In the 1950s the industry really started to decline and by the 1970s it was simply cheaper for the companies to move to the south and then eventually overseas.
This park was such a great adventure. The mills once worked this river so hard no fish or river life, save leeches, where left living it . Now it’s thriving again and this park holds within it a snapshot of its history. While I was strolling along or I saw Someone fly fishing, I stared at the beautiful architecture of the 116 bridge, the amazing view of the river, a museum and all with the mills looming over everything. I will definitely be here often to make sure I’ve seen everything it has to offer. Here’s a little blurb about the history from the RI parks official website.
“While the feel and look of the Blackstone River State Park stitching together the river banks and the abutting boundaries of Cumberland and Lincoln, is definitely rural and naturalistic, the history of the land and waters making up the park is thoroughly industrial. At various points in the twelve-mile trek, one can see the remains of the area’s industrial past peek out from beneath the foliage and reflect in the waters. Mill dams, which once held back the river in order to power machinery, still mark the river’s drop at four locations. Sluices and power trenches, canal mile-stones, ground level, protruding shapes of cellar holes of former worker tenements, along with recycled mills now used as apartments and small businesses dot the path. The observant visitor is challenged to discover the legacy layers of this landscape of industry.”
I recommend if you’re ever in the area, to make a stop and spend the day. There is something here for everyone….