The Silk Works and Power Company

also known as Pennsylvania Textile Company Silk Mill, Lyon Silk Works, Central Falls Power Company Building, later Clydesdale Worsted, Airedale Worsted, & American Broad Loom, now M2 (Mile Squared) Lofts

Three tightly-packed buildings with histories in weaving and threading have turned residential and are thriving in post-industrial Central Falls

About this Property

Redevelopment

This property entry is actually three buildings which we will refer to as such:

  • Central Falls Power Company Building, built 1892 and expanded 1923, corner of Roosevelt and Clay St. at 396 Roosevelt
  • Pennsylvania Textile Company Silk Mill, built 1919, at 404 Roosevelt Ave
  • Lyon Silk Works, built 1920, behind both buildings and siding on Clay St, address 404 Roosevelt

These buildings were built within 20 years of each other and have come to be interconnected as residential condominiums. The three buildings share a corner of Clay Street and Roosevelt Avenue in a dense industrial section of what used to be called simply “Mill Street,” slightly south of Central Street bridge over the Blackstone river.

Current Events

The residential development is known as M2 Lofts, or “Mile Squared” lofts — a reference to the one square mile the city of Central Falls occupies. Units are condominium and come up occasionally on typical real estate sites.

History

From the National Register nomination form for the Central Falls Mill District, boundary increase, 2017

The Pennsylvania Textile Company Silk Mill, 404 Roosevelt Avenue (contributing building), constructed ca. 1919, is an astylistic, east-facing, four-story, five-bay-by-eleven-bay, rectangular, rusticated concrete block building with concrete block quoins at the corners. The building is on a concrete foundation and topped with a shallow-pitch end gable roof clad with asphalt and tar. The eastern bays on the north elevation are clad with vinyl siding. Openings are evenly spaced across the east and north elevations and consist of windows and loading bays. Loading bays are centered in the east elevation and in a one-bay-by-one-bay, full-height projecting tower on the easternmost bay of the north elevation. A hoist beam projects from the center of the gable peak on the east elevation above the loading bays. The building is accessed via twin entrances on the north and south ends of the east elevation that consist of slightly recessed, modern, metal doors sheltered by deep, angled metal awnings. Loading bay openings on the east elevation are filled with a modern, vertical-lift, metal door at the first story and tripartite vinyl replacement windows in the upper stories; the openings on the north elevation are filled with metal panels. Fenestration consists of paired one-over-one, double-hung vinyl sash. The building has been converted for use as residential condominiums.

[…] By 1923, the Pennsylvania Textile Company had gone out of business, but had likely vacated the building by 1922, as Clydesdale Worsted and Airedale Worsted companies are listed at that address in the 1922 Textile World. […]

The Lyon Silk Works, 404 Roosevelt Avenue (contributing building), constructed ca. 1920, is an astylistic, south-facing, four-story, eight-bay-by-ten-bay, approximately rectangular, brick building located at the northern edge of Clay Street and set into the rising slope of the street. A large, asphalt parking lot is immediately west of the building and is level with the second story. The building is topped with a flat roof clad with rubber and tar and surrounded by a metal cornice. Narrow, rectangular stair towers project off the southernmost bay of the east elevation and the easternmost bay of the north elevation. The south (facade) elevation has a parged first story. Loading bays with arched brick lintels and rough-dressed stone sills punctuate the center of the south elevation; openings on the second through fourth stories have been infilled with brick and paired windows. Recessed entrances are in the center and west bays of the first story of the south elevation and are filled with single and paired metal doors with narrow rectangular windows. Window openings are evenly spaced across all four elevations and are filled with paired one-over- one, double-hung vinyl sash with arched brick lintels and rough-dressed stone sills. Metal fire escapes are attached to the western bay of the south elevation. The building has been converted for use as residential condominiums.

The Central Falls Power Company Building, 396 Roosevelt Avenue (contributing building) is a ca. 1892, east-facing, Italianate-style, four-story, five-bay-by-eleven-bay, brick and woodframe building on a brick foundation at the northwest corner of the intersection of Roosevelt Avenue and Clay Street. The building is topped with a shallow-pitched end gable roof clad with rubber and tar. The first story of the building is brick, and the upper stories are clad with vinyl siding. It was originally constructed as a three-bay-wide building; by 1923, the northern two bays, topped with a flat roof, had been added. Entrances are in the center and westernmost bays of the south elevation and just south of center in the original block. Loading bays are centered under the gable peak and are filled with a vertical-lift metal door at the first story with multi-light double doors above. A second vertical-lift metal door, set into an arched brick opening, is in the fourth bay of the east elevation. Windows are evenly spaced in the facade and are irregularly spaced in the north and south elevations. Fenestration consists of single and paired six-over-one, double- hung, vinyl sash with wide, flat surrounds and slightly projecting sills on the upper stories, and large, multi-light windows with cast stone sills at the first story. The building has been converted for use as residential condominiums.

[…] The Central Falls Power Company leased the building to four tenants: the Central Yarn Company; the Rhode Island Hosiery Company, makers of knit goods; Coombs & Patterson, jewelry manufacturers; and O. H. Hathaway, makers of roll coverings. The Flossette Thread Company acquired the building by 1900, and manufactured imitation silk yarns and threads at that location through ca. 1907. By 1910, the property was occupied by the Reliable Manufacturing Company, another thread company, which went bankrupt by 1912 and was replaced by the Sewing Thread Company, which was in business at that location until ca. 1917. By 1919, the Star Braiding Company, makers of shoelaces, had taken over the building, which had an address of 1 Clay Street at that time. In 1926, companies in Pawtucket and Central Falls manufacturing braids and woven laces occupied 22 plants, employed 972 people, and produced $3.7 million dollars worth of goods. Only 3 of the 22 companies were in Central Falls and employed more than 100 people.


We are unsure when the rug braider American Broad Loom entered into these buildings, but online searches turn up listings for the company with an address of 404 Roosevelt Avenue, owned by Armand R. Contois. Open Corporates lists them as incorporated in November 1970 and closed on September, 1997.

In the News

Manufacturing a community

by Patrick Anderson
Providence Journal | July 23, 2017

More than 100 new homes have been built along the red-bricked banks of the Blackstone River in recent years, but there are still a few things this growing neighborhood lacks, including a name.

So far at least, the real estate marketing minds that have re-branded locations across the country haven’t turned their attention to this mill-filled stretch of riverfront from Exchange Street to the Northeast Corridor train tracks.

“I don’t know what to call it,” said Bob Billington, president of the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council and resident of one of the new mill conversion buildings on the river. “We don’t have a name really. It’s kind of exciting because it is a neighborhood starting to re-emerge.”

An area synonymous with the Industrial Revolution in the United States and home to some of the oldest factory buildings in the country, the neighborhood was hit hard by the decline in manufacturing in the second half of the 20th century.

The Elizabeth Webbing Mills on Roosevelt Avenue closed in 2001 taking away a major employer for the area but setting the stage for a major transition from industrial to residential use.

The sprawling complex of mill buildings, which date back to 1825, were bought by Tai-0 Group, which began converting them into a mix of condominium and rental apartments under the moniker M Residential.

Over three phases ending in 2015, Tai-0 invested $40 million and opened 157 units at M Residential that feature modern luxury amenities and lush, well-manicured grounds covering a several hundreds yards of riverfront. All of the M Residential projects used federal and state historic tax credits and rents in the complex start at around $1,300 per month, according to media reports.

On the Pawtucket side of the river across from M Residential is the 300 Front St. apartment complex and the headquarters of Collette Vacations. But the arrival of all these new Loft apartments hasn’t gentrified the whole neighborhood.

Across the street from the complex another mill conversion, the Mile Square Lofts, is flanked by a Salvadoran restaurant, the Pulaski Society social club, a car repair garage and a self-storage facility.

To the south on Roosevelt, manufacturing still happens at the K&W Webbing mill while to the north businesses such as a pet shop, hair salon and the Rhode Island Trucking Association headquarters mix with a few old apartment houses.

“A lot of local people for years have not really given Central Falls a fair shake,” Billington said. “For people out of state who have no preconceived notions, when they arrive and look at the real estate. They find hardwood floors, tall ceilings, a river at their disposal, a minute to the bikeway. They love the quality of life.”

In an effort to soften the neighborhood’s industrial rough edges, cherry trees were planted along the streets in the area and a new mini park was built at the bend in the river where Roosevelt Avenue meets Charles Street.

The park celebrates the first mill in the area, built in the 1780 to manufacture chocolate, which gave all of Central Falls the nickname “Chocolateville.” By the early 19th century the chocolate mill was damaged and evenh1ally torn down.

The next phase of the Blackstone River Bikeway is expected to be built in the coming years providing another recreational amenity and helping connect the neighborhood with downtown Pawtucket and Providence.

One question about all the new mill conversions is whether they will function as enclaves or if their new residents will become part of the larger Central Falls and Pawtucket communities.

“We are not there yet, but with the mayor dragging them out and saying, ‘will you serve on Planning Board, will you serve on zoning board,’ that bleeding is starting to happen,” Billington said. “We are trying to make sure those that live here spend the money here. We want to let them know what’s happening on Broad Street.

Providence Journal (RI), 23 July 2017, p. 51. NewsBank: America’s News , infoweb.newsbank.com/apps/news/document-view?p=NewsBank&docref=imag e/v2%3A1652098DCED03C80%40NewsBank-165D12858FB961E2%402457958-165D128D26BA3FD6%4050. Accessed 23 Nov. 2021.


At the mill: Down, but not out

by Tatiana Pina
Providence Journal | March 18, 2006

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The backhoes were running early yesterday at 404 Roosevelt Ave., as workers removed brick and metal debris where a section of the building collapsed the day before as developers awaited certificate of occupancies for 6 of the 15 condominiums they are constructing.

Ben Burbank, 28, one of the owners and developers of the project, spent part of the day meeting with engineers to develop a plan to repair the damage that occurred Thursday when workers were excavating an area where a ramp will be placed. Workers using a backhoe to move dirt had dug a sizeable hole when they noticed sand flooding into the ditch and the floors shifting.

Twelve people were working in the building, but they exited safely.

That middle portion of the former mill, built around 1918, did not have concrete footing and when the sand moved from underneath the building, the floors began to sag and a concrete block wall fell away, according to Todd J. Olbrych, the city’s director of code enforcement.

Another part of his day yesterday was spent shoring up the sagging floors, Burbank said.

Burbank, and Damon Carter and Nick Radecki, both 30, created a buzz when they approached the city two and a half years ago with plans to convert a former carpet mill into artists’ lofts called Miles Square Loft. Burbank estimates the cost of the project at $1.4 million, and said he has spent $1 million so far.

He estimated that the damage would set the project back by about two months.

Olbrych said concrete footings are underneath the ground and cannot be readily seen. It would have been hard to catch the problem, he said. He has been to the site about 12 times to inspect one thing or another, he said.

“If a building has been standing for 100 years, that defies logic,” Olbrych said. “This is an anomaly.”

“Was there anything that could have prevented this? I don’t know what. You can’t see underground.’

The developers are required to present a corrective action plan for repairing the building, Olbrych said. Burbank said he planned to submit one by next week.

Yesterday morning, an officer from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspected the site. Fred Joseph Jr., acting area director for Rhode Island, would not discuss the results of the inspection, saying an investigation was still under way.

Records show that the architect for the job, P. Lynne Stapleton, had filed project certificates for the construction plans for that part of the project.

Ronald F. Travers, the director of zoning and code enforcement for the City of Pawtucket, said it would have been difficult to discern the condition of the building. “The mishap is an unfortunate event. In hindsight, you think well, maybe, I should have done this … I would have probably handled it the same way. You don’t see a multistory building standing and not assume that the foundation is adequate. When the mill fire happened in Pawtucket, certain conditions didn’t become evident until after the building partially collapsed,” he said.

“They have walked the walk down there. It’s a shame this happened. It’s a good job for the city. They have taken an old mill and invested a lot of money,” Olbrych said.


Trio of artists envisions an oasis in an old mill

by Tatiana Pina
Providence Journal | February 27, 2004 (abridged)

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From the top of the former American Broad Loom mill at 404 Roosevelt Ave., you can look down the street and spot Slater Mill, the cradle of the Industrial Revolution.

Now, the three young men who have purchased American Broad Loom are planning a revolution of their own.

Benjamin Burbank, Damon B. Carter and Nicolas Radecki, all of Providence, want to convert the mill into 15 studio-loft apartments, a cafe, a gallery, a glass art studio and innovative garden rooftops that would help keep a part of the building cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter.

The men planned to go before the Zoning Board of Review this week in City Hall to ask for permission to build the condominiums, cafe and gallery in the former textile mill, which sits on property that is zoned for planned-unit development and industrial/commercial use.

They want to make Trans404m, as they call the project, a model of urban renewal and sustainability.

“This project has many sides the business side, environmental side and the artistic side,” Burbank said.

The men purchased the mill for $325,000. They estimate the project will cost about $1.2 million, including sweat equity from the three of them. If they can get all their permits, construction on the 50,000-square-foot building could begin in the middle or end of April, Burbank said. They estimated that they would sell the condominiums starting at around $188,000 for the smallest unit, which would have 1,350 square feet of space. The three men will each live in condos in the building.

They came to Central Falls because prices were more reasonable than in Providence, where a mill revival is occurring and they feel property has become overpriced. […]

Mayor Charles Moreau said the project would be a welcome addition to the city.

“Its a cutting-edge project that is happening throughout New England the revitalization of mills. I embraced it a hundredfold,” Moreau said. “It’s going to be a $2-million first step in revitalizing the whole Roosevelt corridor and I’m glad to be a part of it. Anything we can do for them, we will.”

As they walk through each of the four floors of the building, the men talk about the plans they have for this vast textile mill laid with oak floors and constructed from bricks and concrete blocks. The L-shaped building has a museum-piece boiler and antique freight elevators from the 1890s, which the men intend to fix to code while preserving their beauty, according to Carter.

Burbank, 26, an artist who has a contractor’s license and will be doing construction work on the building, says that a unique detail of the project will be a rooftop garden, which entails making a greenhouse on a third-floor roof and creating open green space on the fourth-floor roof.

Rooftop gardens help to reduce heating and cooling bills and prolong the life of the roof, according to Burbank, as well as serve as a community outlet for growing plants and vegetables. […]

The group is incorporated under the name Aeturnus, a nonprofit dedicated to providing new products for environmental repair to urban centers, sustainable energy and continuing development of community-based education and the arts. The group will work on the environmental aspects of the building, which includes the rooftop gardens and installation of solar panels, among other things. Aeturnus is planning a rendition of Faust to raise money for its project.

Radecki, 29, a glass and metal artist and landscaper from Indiana who studied at RISD, will work on the rooftop gardens and the solar panels on the building.

Carter, 30, a glass blower and graduate of Massachusetts College of Art, who has made a living from his art for 14 years, says that radiant heat from the furnace in the glass studio will be funneled through an existing smoke stack to heat the greenhouse.

Carter says the mill will fulfill a dream for him because he will have a glass studio space where he can make and sell his work in a building that is constructed in harmony with its environment.

“To start a business that interests me on a million levels and not have to work 9 to 5 is ideal. We’ll have an environmental arts community. We have all lived substandard lives trying to make this happen,” Carter said. […]