Dyerville Mills

also known as Joslin Manufacturing Company, Cowan Plastics

An over 180-year-old mill structure with the Woonasquatucket river at its back and a former office building fronting Manton Avenue

About this Property


The over one hundred and eighty year old mill has survived largely intact from its original exterior appearance, though one can speculate that its current use as office space means that the interior has been very much altered.

As late as 1978, a covered wood walkway connected the mill tower with an early twentieth-century building on Manton Avenue formerly used as the mill office. That former office bears the number 610 address and is now a private home and looks to have been lovingly restored. The mill, meanwhile, is also located at 610 but with an entrance off Manton Avenue 500 feet away from the former office.

Current Events

In the early 2000s the mill was home to the Rhode Island Department of Labor. The newer single level portion of the mill was a facility occupied by Cowan Plastics. The mill changed hands in 2003 with a sale of a little over a million dollars. Since then, the office building has been zoned off and sold as residential while the mill remains in use.

In 2020, the mill became part of the Groden Network of educational and vocational centers assisting adults with development difficulties like autism. This location houses the “Cove Center” along with spaces for other businesses who presumably rent from Groden.


From the “Industrial Sites and Commercial Buildings Survey (ICBS)” by PPS and the AIA, 2001-2002

The mill is a well-preserved example of industrial architecture, and is probably the oldest and least altered mill in Providence. The three-and-one-half-story, L-shaped structure was designed in the Greek Revival style with stuccoed rubble stonewalls and a gabled roof. A four-and-one- half-story, hip-roof tower rises at the outside corner of the L. The tower is capped by an arcaded wood belfry with Italianate detailing, which was probably added in the 1860s. A stone, three- story picker house is located on the southwest side of the mill, creating a U-shaped structure. Several entrances into the building are located along the north and west elevations. The building is trimmed in wood and stone, and in addition, has diamond shaped tie rods in three rows along the façade and side elevations. Fenestration is comprised of rectangular, 6/6 and 8/8 sash with granite sills and lintels. Architecturally this building represents the transition from small wooden frame mills to larger masonry structures (NR).

Elisha Dyer formed the Dyerville Mills company in 1835 as a cotton mill. His son Elisha Jr. eventually took over the business and ran it until it was sold to Truman Beckwith in 1867. Beckwith, along with his son, Amos, was the owner of the largest cotton brokerage firm in the city. By 1903 the mill was producing laces and braids for the Joslin Manufacturing Company (who had just opened a mill across the Woonasquatucket River). The 1919 Sanborn map identifies Joslin Manufacturing Company as the occupants of the Dyerville Mill, which included 588 Manton Avenue. At that time, the several one- to two-story additions on the rear of the warehouse were not yet constructed. As the textile industry in New England faltered Joslin made attempts to diversify, but to no avail. The mill was sold to a wholesale grocery firm, who remained there until the 1970s. The 1950 directory lists Eastern Engraving Co. Inc., What Cheer Food Co., and Leonard Jewelry at this address.

Warehouse entry, 588 Manton Avenue

A one-story, brick, flat-roof building constructed as a warehouse in the early twentieth century. The main entrance is recessed and features a wood door with concrete steps and an iron railing. The main building is trimmed in wood and has rectangular, double hung 6/9 windows set below 6-light transoms. It has three one-story additions extending from the southwest elevation of the main block. The addition visible from Manton Avenue is a one-story, concrete block, rear addition with a wooden parapet, fixed windows, and two vehicular entrances.

The building was constructed in the early twentieth century, prior to 1919 when it appears on the Sanborn map of that year. The building was operated by Joslin Manufacturing Company, manufacturers of shoe lacings who also operated out of 608 Manton Avenue. 588 Manton Avenue was used for twisting and was later used as a warehouse. Joslin Shoe continued to occupy the building and during World War II had major contracts, which may have facilitated the construction of three additions to the rear of the original block. These additions were added to the south elevation of the warehouse block in the 1960s as noted on Sanborn maps. The building is now home to Cowan Plastics.

Older collected histories

From the RIHPHC’s survey of Providence Industrial Sites, July 1981

Dyerville Mill (1835) — The Dyerville Mill was founded by Elisha Dyer, a successful Providence commission merchant. Dyer, like many Providence merchants, reinvested his money in manufacturing as trade became less profitable. By 1849 the Dyerville Mill employed thirty men and thirty-five women who turned out 800,000 yards of calico cloth a year.

Elisha Dyer, Jr., who was governor of Rhode Island from 1857 to 1859, too over the company when his father died in 1854. Dyer was the sole owner and agent for the company until 1867 when he sold the mill to the Beckwith family. Truman Beckwith, owner of the largest cotton-brokerage firm in Providence, and his son Amos (who acted as the agent for the company) incorporated the firm as the Dyerville Manufacturing Company. By 1870 the company employed forty men, forty-eight women, and twenty-four children.

With the New England cotton industry already facing competition from the South by the turn-of-the-century, however, attempts were made at diversification. In 1903, the Joslin Manufacturing Company, a braid and shoelace manufacturer, bought the Dyerville Mill as well as the Merino Mill. Joslin sold the mill to a wholesale grocery company in 1931. Today the Dyerville Mill is owned and partially occupied by the Leonard Jewelry Company which first occupied part of the complex in 1949. The mill complex also houses several other light industries.

From “RHODE ISLAND: An Inventory of Historic Engineering and Industrial Sites”, Gary Kulik and Julia C. Bonham, 1978

The Dyerville Mill, built c. 1845 (A.I.R.: This date is incorrect), is an L-shaped, stuccoed-stone structure with a gable roof and skylights. Its end tower has an impressive Greek Revival open belfry with a hipped roof. A wooden walkway connects the tower to a building on Manton Avenue, formerly used as an office. A stone picker house located on the southwest side of the mill, and a 1-story, brick extension originally used as a weave shed, is now connected to a modern concrete addition. The wooden wheel house and a brick and wood boiler house still survive on the north west.

A long raceway formerly ran from a wooden dam on the Woonasquatucket River to power the-mill. The dam is still in place, but the gates have been removed, and the race is only visible near the wheel house. A horizontal turbine and belt-driven generator also remain in place, but no steam engines survive. The yellow-brick stack displays the name of the Joslin Manufacturing Company, a Providence-based firm with mills in Providence and Scituate. Joslin produced shoe laces, glazed braid, and corset laces, and owned the Dyerville Mill at the turn-of-the-century.

This is an important early textile mill for which little historical information is available. It is currently owned by a jewelry company, and parts of the complex are occupied by tenants. Worker housing survives along Manton Avenue.

From the National Register Nomination form, 1976, prepared by William McKenzie Woodward

Architecturally the mill represents the shift from the first small, wood-frame industrial buildings, like Slater Mill in Pawtucket, to the larger masonry structures characteristic of Rhode Island’s heavy nineteenth-century industrialization, such as the 1826 Slatersville Mill. Only two other early mills are known to remain in Providence, and both have been heavily altered and compromised by later construction. The nineteenth-century additions to the Dyerville Mill on the other hand, are architecturally in keeping with the original building.