Image of the Crompton Mill on the Pawtuxet River in West Warwick, Rhode Island.
Industrialization came early to this most southern of West Warwick’s villages. In 1807, the Providence Manufacturing Company began spinning cotton here on the east side of the river fall, in a small mill that may have been the first Rhode Island factory built of stone. The company failed in 1816, and, after several changes in ownership, operations were taken over in 1823 by the newly formed Crompton Company. The new owners began bleaching and printing calicos at Crompton and were apparently successful, for they built two additional mills on the west side of the river in 1828 and 1832. By 1833, the Crompton Company employed 177 villagers, 69 of them children.
Two other factories were built here in the early nineteenth century. In 1815, Tiffany & Pitman built a mill at Crompton which operated until 1844, and at nearby Flat Top Pond, a mill was constructed in 1816.
The Crompton Company built several houses for its workers. The two houses at 6-8 and 10-12 Remington Street are typical--long, one-and-a-half-story multi-family buildings embellished with Greek Revival details.
By 1860, Crompton had become a substantial village with a population of several hundred. In addition to the mills and the workers’ houses, the village could boast several stores, a school, a hotel, and no fewer than four churches: two built for Baptists, one for Episcopalians, and a fourth, St. Mary’s, constructed for the quickly expanding Irish Catholic community. This last is the oldest extant Catholic church building in Rhode Island.
The factories of the Crompton Company on the South Branch were acquired in 1866 by George Richmond of Providence, who already had extensive experience as a calico printer. His family retained ownership of much of Crompton into the twentieth century, and virtually remade the village.
Soon after his purchase, Richmond began a major program of building. He demolished and relocated a number of mills, houses, and stores. In the 1880s he built a new mill. The company steadily increased production in the late nineteenth century and made a specialty of napped fabrics, especially velveteens and corduroys, a field in which Crompton achieved national prominence.
While Crompton did not experience the huge growth in population achieved by some other villages its population appears to have merely doubled between 1865 and 1895, substantial new residential building did occur, largely as a result of Richmond’s determination to provide pleasant living conditions for his employees.
In 1876, a "New Village" of workers’ houses was built on Hepburn Street, a dozen new duplexes supplementing the earlier houses on Pulaski and Remington Streets. In 1921, the Crompton Company constructed another series of houses, along the New London Turnpike and on Manchester and Hepburn Streets. These seven houses and one apartment building are faced with stucco over wire lath, and exhibit the influence of English models in their design and detail. They are set on landscaped lots with large yards and reflect the disenchantment of mill-housing builders with the uniformity and regularity of earlier houses.
In 1867, a new school was built at Crompton, and, in 1876, West Warwick’s first lending library, the Crompton Free Library, opened here. In the late nineteenth century, the village acquired a hotel and a fire station.Source: Historic and Architectural Resources of West Warwick, Rhode Island: A Preliminary ReportSee also:
Historic and Architectural Resources of West Warwick, Rhode Island: A Preliminary Report