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Old Slater Mill

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Title: Old Slater Mill  
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Subject: National Register of Historic Places, Industrial archaeology, List of National Historic Landmarks in Rhode Island
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Old Slater Mill

Old Slater Mill
Location Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, Rhode Island

41°52′39″N 71°22′57″W / 41.87750°N 71.38250°W / 41.87750; -71.38250Coordinates: 41°52′39″N 71°22′57″W / 41.87750°N 71.38250°W / 41.87750; -71.38250

Area 4.23 acres (17,100 m2)[1]
Built 1793
Governing body Private
NRHP Reference # 66000001
Significant dates
Added to NRHP November 13, 1966[2]
Designated NHL November 13, 1966[3]

A National Historic Landmark, the Slater Mill is located next to the Blackstone River in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Modeled after cotton spinning mills first established in England, the Slater Mill is the first water-powered cotton spinning mill in North America to utilize the Arkwright system of cotton spinning as developed by Richard Arkwright. Samuel Slater, the mill's founder, apprenticed as a young man in Belper, England with industrialist Jedediah Strutt. Shortly after immigrating to the United States, Slater was hired by Moses Brown of Providence, Rhode Island to produce a working set of machines necessary to spin cotton yarn using water-power. Construction of the machines, as well as a dam, waterway, waterwheel and mill was completed in 1793. Manufacturing was based on Richard Arkwright's cotton spinning system which included carding, drawing, and spinning machines. Slater initially hired children and families to work in his mill, establishing a pattern that was replicated throughout the Blackstone Valley and known as the "Rhode Island System". It was later eclipsed by Francis Cabot Lowell's Waltham System.

Slater Mill has the distinction of carrying the first, lowest reference number in the National Register of Historic Places reference number series, although many hundreds of other sites were listed on the NRHP before it.[4][5] The site was further designated a National Historic Landmark on the same date in 1966.[1][3]

Architectural History

The original portion of the Slater Mill built in 1793 was six bays long and two stories tall. During the 19th and early 20th century several additions were made beginning in 1801 and a second in 1835. Between 1869 and 1872 a large addition was made to the north end of the mill. Cotton spinning continued until 1895, after which the mill was used for various industrial uses until 1923. Although the building had suffered numerous fires in the past, two fires occurred in 1912 which precipitated awareness of the building and the need for its preservation.

From Mill to Museum

In 1921 a non-profit organization, the Old Slater Mill Association, was founded with the purpose of saving the historic Mill. Efforts to restore the mill began in 1923; modern additions to the structure were removed restoring the mill to its 1835 appearance. In 1955 it opened as a museum. Restoration of the nearby Wilkinson Mill (built 1810-1811) was completed in 1978 as part of the Slater Mill site.[6]

Modern times

The Slater Mill site serves as a living history museum, educational center and community center. It includes five acres of land on both sides of the Blackstone River, a dam on the river, two historic mills (the Slater Mill and Wilkinson Mill), and the Sylvanus Brown House (a house built in 1758 but moved to the site in the 1960s). Tours are conducted by costumed guides. The Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, located across the street, houses the Slater Mill's museum store, art gallery and theater.

Community Guild Studios

The Slater Mill Community Guild Studios serves as a regional fiber arts and crafts center. Functioning as a guild house, it houses local guilds and groups including quilters, basketmakers, spinners, fullers, dyers, surface designers and weavers. The Center hosts meetings and events of these groups, as well as programs, meetings and workshops for the public.

Labor & Ethnic Heritage Festival

Each year the Slater Mill hosts the Labor & Ethnic Heritage Festival. The festival honors Rhode Island’s labor and ethnic traditions as well as Rhode Island's legacy of industry and innovation with a day of folk music and dance, ethnic foods, artisans and fine crafts.

See also



External links

  • Providence Journal video of Slater Mill Historic Site
  • Providence Journal video of the Blackstone River
  • Slater Mill website
  • Site about Slater and his mill
  • Pawtucket Arts Festival
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