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Privilege Mill District

Located around Farm, North Main and Privilege Streets, the Privilege Mill District contains some of the finest examples of company-built mill housing in Woonsocket.

The Harris Woolen Company's Privilege Mill Complex The vast Privilege Mill Complex was constructed from 1864 to 1865 by Edward Harris. Power was provided by a dam built across the Mill River to produced the Harris Pond. The large brick mill which was constructed near North Main and Privilege Streets was considered the finest of its day. The recruitment of French-Canadian workers for this mill sparked a great wave of immigration to Woonsocket that transformed the city's ethnic composition.

Farm Street Housing To provide housing for his workers, Harris constructed eighty tenement houses in the area around his new mill. The largest remaining concentration of these houses is on Farm and North Main Streets. All are brick structures built with materials manufactured on-site. The large tenements, and somewhat smaller double houses, have a similar front facade with the gable ends long-side to the street.

Considering the large numbers of workers who lived in company-built housing, it is unfortunate that so few of these homes remain. A large concentration of mill housing originally constructed by the Social Manufacturing Company was destroyed in the urban renewal project that reshaped the Social District in the 1970's. Worker housing associated with the Globe Mill on Lincoln Street has been beautifully restored. Two largely intact, mid-nineteenth century mill complexes remain at Ashton and Berkeley along Mendon Road in Cumberland

This page utilizes information from:

  • Statewide Historic Preservation Report for Woonsocket, Rhode Island published by the Rhode Island Historic Preservation Commission in September, 1976.
  • Woonsocket, Rhode Island - A Centennial History 1888 - 1988 published by the Woonsocket Centennial Committee in 1988.
For Woonsocket residents, these books are available at the Woonsocket Harris Public Library.

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