Excerpts from “Warwick’s Villages & Historic Places”
By Don D’Amato
The mill has long been a landmark in Warwick that remids us of the time when the “Fruit of the Loom” textiles were the most famous in the world and when immigrants from England, Sweden, French-Canada and Italy came to Warwick to find work and a new way of life.
In 1852, at about the time that the mills were thriving in Crompton, Centreville and Apponaug, the B.B. & R. Knight Company acquired the mills of John H. Clark. They also decided to change the name of the village from Clarkesville to Pontiac. Oliver Payson Fuller, in his 1875 History of Warwick notes, “No one of the villages on the Pawtuxet River and its tributaries has been designated by so many different names in the course of its history, as the one we have now come to.” He traces the names back to May 10, 1662, when Warwick records show that it was known by the Indian name of Toskeunk.
linda Nov 10 2014 I stay at the NYLO quite often for biz and hear that the mill has been sold and they are gonna make apartments. Not sure if it’s the entire facility tho. It is in such disrepair that i can’t fathom how much it will cost. The history is quite interesting tho and it is, even in its current condition, picturesque with the river flowing out back.
Lynn Aug 27 2014 I lived in Pontiac for 17yrs. We owned a house on Eastman St. Does anyone have any information on the area over there? Our house was very haunted. We had T.A.P.S do an investigation there which lead to us being on the show Ghost Hunters back in 2006. The episode actually aired in 2007. Thanks!
Mike Getty Feb 25 2014 I have tons of pictures of what the mill looks like inside and out to this present day of February 25, 2013 if anyone is interested please let me know. There is a fee involved. Uniquethingz2011 [at] aol [dot] com
Luci Stravato (Bowen) Dec 17 2013 I grew up in the 70s at the white "foreman’s" house at the end of Knight Street. It was so big that they made four "apartments" out of it. I currently live in Florida, but I visited earlier this year to see that they have since made an apartment complex in our old backyard!!! I always thought it was cool that Abraham Lincoln dedicated the mill in the 1800s, we used to play there as children, even though it was forbidden. Could it be he stayed in my house during his visit? I guess there is no way of knowing that, huh? The only anecdote I can add is that I believe our old house to be haunted. I know that sounds silly, but we have plenty of stories of Mr. McCormick that supposedly passed away upstairs. Any way we can trace him to the house? My brother still swears to this day that his apparition appeared before him one night. Also, I heard rumors that tunnels run from the mill to the surrounding houses. Any truth in that?? Please feel free to contact me with any information regarding my old house, I find it fascinating…
Kathy Smith Sep 23 2013 I recently visited Warwick and stayed at the NYLO. I absolutely fell in love with the Mill. I am from Vermont and would love to see the Pontiac Mill restored. Is there a Historical society that would be interested in saving this beautiful piece of history? (Ed: Historical Societies typically do not have money for such endeavors.) What about a grassroots group that would do a capital fund raising campaign to kick off the remodel? This location would be incredible for apartments, a nightclub, art gallery and museum. All it would take is some passion and a some elbow grease.
Al Russell Dec 17 2012 My Great Grandfather immigrated from Larkhall, Scotland to Pontiac in 1888. He worked in a mill in Scotland and his sister’s husband (Boss dyer in the Merrimac Mill in Lowell, Mass) got him the job at the mill in Pontiac. In 1889 my Grandfather was born in one of the white mill houses on Reed Street. I have a copy of an 1889 drawing of the mill and the surrounding area from the church on Greenwich (St. Paul’s) to the church on Greenwich next to the Free Library. Obtained from a Boston Library. His name was Albert Dege Russell.
Eva Oct 15 2009 M Simone – Marie, is that you??? It’s Eva! fezziwigwhse [at] yahoo [dot] com
Eva Oct 15 2009 In the 1990s, I fell in love with Pontiac Mill. It was an ideal environment for living/working studios, though not zoned for the changing world. A number of us had antique spaces and there were a few galleries and working studios. My dog Rose and I had half of the 2nd floor of one building, nearly 1/2 acre of floor space, previously occupied by an insurance company with bezillions of desks and typists. I painted the floor and kept checking my calculator to be sure I had the decimal point in the correct place. Could it really take 40 gallons just to paint a floor??? As Pontiac Antiques & Arts Emporium, I spent each day greeting the meagre foot traffic until the Boston Globe discovered us. Over the following year, hundreds of shoppers found their way to the 2nd floor, folded 4 page article from the Globe clutched in hand. I lived on the premises, carving out 1200 square feet just for me, waking to find snow on the window ledges, sending the aroma of hot soup throughout the building by the elevator shaft, visiting artisans in the building on snowy days, ducking through the brick archways to visit, watching the heron and egrets in the river. For a while, I rented a basement area for storage, under which one could hear water flowing and see water through chinks in the huge timbers of the floor – had to leave there, as it caused a horrid lingering cough and mildew was growing on my furniture. For some time, I rented the little structure that looks like a mini train station out front. We held open mics to which no one came. It took 30 gallons of paint to do the green and yellow exterior, but it was a joy to behold. Florence was the property manager and I surely gave her gray hair. One summer, with no customers and way too much time on our hands, one of the fellows on the property (an event marketer) peddled fruits and vegetables in front of the mill. That was the year we really exchanged words with all of the other tenants and actually met neighborhood folks. The was a really imposing chain link fence around the property that sent an unwelcoming message to shoppers who really weren’t sure they were in the right place and I could never get the owners to approve removal. It was nearly impossible to get signage approval from a city that is mired in their own self importance. I never did get a certificate of occupancy for an antique shop. The codes indicated that there was no need for a new CO, but the building inspection dept was going to prevent me from opening an antiques shop there until I asked who it was that one had to sleep with to get approval in Warwick. Oddly enough, we never heard from them again. The rent was cheap, the sense of community was warm, and I carry memories of Pontiac Mill with me always. Warwick itself is no better or worse than any other little burg that cannot see the forest for the trees.
jay we lived on garden city drive in cranston from 1954-1960. we would go to the mills just because it was huge, on the river and mom told us never to go there!!! great pix.
m simone pontiac mills has not been demolished. a metal building built in the 1960s was torn down to create room for nylo. if you visit nylohotels.com they mention the plans for the remaining portion of the mill with hopes for it to be an artists village. the mill is at the mercy of the banks who are unwilling to lend money to this type of project due to the poor real estate market. does anyone have any money to save this property? pontiac mills has some of the most stunning architecture of all the rhode island mills, resembling a european street or village. it remains on the historic register but if something is not done soon it will be to late.
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