Click on the picture to see the full color version.
Market Square was a dense warren of factories from the 1820's to the middle of the present century. Today, it is the gateway to a new and revitalized Main Street.
Long prized as a source of power, Woonsocket Falls is the largest waterfall on the Blackstone River. The first settlement in Woonsocket occurred when Captain Richard Arnold built a sawmill powered by the falls in the 1660's. In the early nineteenth century, water behind the falls was dammed and diverted through a system of canal like trenches to power the mills around Market Square and on Main Street.
While the Blackstone River powered Woonsocket's industrial growth for nearly a century, it also flooded on a regular, though infrequent, basis. Flood damage in the Woonsocket Falls area is recorded as early as 1807. The city's most serious flood occurred on August 19, 1955 when heavy rains breached the earthen embankments containing the Harris Pond. A twenty foot wall of water rolled through the Social area causing significant damage.
As part of the flood control project which followed the 1955 flood, significant changes were made to the Woonsocket Falls. Tons of glacial rock were cut away and the old dam was replaced with the current concrete and steel structure.
Market Square Pavilion
Located on the site of the former George C. Ballou Mill, the Market Square Pavilion is the gateway to Woonsocket's new downtown. Informational panels or "waysides" dot the area and provide information on Woonsocket's industrial past and nearby historical sites.
Just above the Woonsocket Falls on River Street is the Woonsocket Landing. From August to November, the Blackstone Valley Explorer is docked here to provide tours of the Blackstone River. Woonsocket's industrial past is the focus of the Thundermist Tour. You will see a number of local landmarks and hear interesting stories about the city's past and present. Family Halloween fun awaits passengers on the Haunted River Tour as they search for friendly spooks, ghosts and goblins along the river's shore.
65 East Street
Visible from Market Square just above the falls is the former Glenark Mill. The original stone section of this mill was constructed 1865 and was enlarged with a brick addition in 1885. Originally a cotton mill, the building was converted for use as a knitting mill and then as a worsted mill. The building has now been converted to apartments.
(1865 and 1885)
This bridge is the tenth to stand at this location since the first bridge was built in 1736. The rare double arch, stone bridge is actually two bridges joined in the middle. The first section spans from South Main Street to an island, and the second from the island to Market Square.
Falls Yarn Mill
This building, recently restored, was the original headquarters of the Woonsocket Rubber Company - a large manufacturer of rubber shoes, boots and wringers which also built the huge Alice Mill (now Tech Industries) in Fairmount in 1889. It became the Falls Yarn Mill around 1900.
The Museum of Work and Culture
The Museum of Work and Culture tells the story of Woonsocket's transition from an agricultural hamlet to one of the country's great industrial centers. Immigration, the development of the working class and the growth of labor unions are all presented in interesting, interactive exhibits. Next door, the Lt. Georges Dubois Veterans Museum tells the story of Rhode Islandís Merci Boxcar and the veterans who once rode it.
River Island Park
Just behind the Museum of Work and Culture on Bernon Street is River Island Park - a lovely park with walking paths along the Blackstone River, a canoe ramp and a bandstand for summer concerts. River Island Park is the site of Woonsocket's Riverfest. It also contains the city's Municipal Ice Skating Rink.
On June 27, 1842, Charterite supporters fortified this building in Market Square in anticipation of an expected attack from Dorrite forces in the Dorr Rebellion. Steel plates were placed over the windows with just enough room left between the armor for solders to shoot through. The expected attack never happened and the Dorr rebellion fell apart shortly thereafter. The building was demolished in March 2005 to make way for a new restaurant.
2 - 4 South Main Street
(c. 1820 - 1840)
Ye Olde English Fish & Chips
So many people have written to me about Ye Olde English Fish & Chips that I had to include it here. Ye Olde English has been an institution in Woonsocket for many years and serves the best fish & chips around.
Click here to continue your walk down Main Street.
This page utilizes information from:
For Woonsocket residents, these references are available at the Woonsocket Harris Public Library.
- 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.
- Woonsocket Call, Main Street 2000 Development Corporation section, December 16, 1997
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