*Disclosure-I was taken on this tour, and to all the attractions, to facilitate my review. All opinions are my own*When you think of Rhode Island, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The beaches? Newport and the Mansions? The Providence dining and nightlife?
What about the Industrial Revolution?
A few weeks ago I was invited to take a tour of the Historic and beautiful Blackstone Valley. On this tour, I learned so much more about Rhode Island and it’s rich history!
We met at the Blackstone Valley Visitors Center, (175 Main Street, Pawtucket, RI) where we watched a twenty-minute film retracing the area’s mill history and its impact on development of the Blackstone River Valley. The Blackstone Valley Visitor Center, brings in more than 100,000 visitors per year and acts as a one-stop information resource for visitors and residents alike! You’ll find brochures for hundreds of area attractions, businesses and organizatons as well as visitor services, gallery, gift shop and exhibits!
The first stop on the tour was the Woonsocket Train Depot (1 Depot Square, Woonsocket, RI) Designed for the Providence and Worcester Railroad, the Woonsocket Depot is an elaborately decorated brick building, which was the finest on-line passenger depot on the P&W line. It replaced the original 1847 depot, which was destroyed by fire. The station has been converted into offices and is now the headquarters for the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor.
Outside the Woonsocket Depot, visitors will see a statue of a dog. In 2009, Richard Gere starred in Hachi: A Dog’s Tale, the bittersweet story of a dog so loyal to its master that it spent 10 years waiting at the train station for his master, who had died at work, to come home. This actually happened in Japan in the 1930s. The dog, named Hachiko, died on March 8, 1935, still waiting for his master. The train station used in the Richard Gere Americanized version of the story was theWoonsocket Train Depot. The Japanese erected a statue of Hachiko at their train station, and the mayor of Woonsocket thought that Woonsocket train depot should have one too. Next up was the Museum of Work and Culture (Woonsocket, 42 S. Main St., Woonsocket, RI) I am embarrassed to say that our family had never been here before! But, after visiting, I will definitely be back with Avery! The Museum of Work & Culture shares the stories of the men, women, and children who came to find a better life in Rhode Island’s mill towns in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It is a small museum, but really has a lot to offer. (Including the cutest little dog, that belongs to one of the staff!–I cannot guarantee this cutie will be there when you visit, though!) It was interesting to learn more about the working conditions, as well as life outside the mills.
When it was time for lunch, we headed to The Blackstone Valley Explorer (Cold Spring Park, Katherine Road, Woonsocket) for a lunch cruise of sorts! The 40-passenger tour boat brought us on an interesting and relaxing 45 minute long nature cruise on the Blackstone River. Come see the beauty of our nation’s hardest working river and learn its ecology and history. We learned about the mills we saw along the way, and saw the flora and fauna along the banks. Tours depart from Woonsocket, RI through August and then from Festival Pier in Pawtucket, RI from September to mid-October.
Next stop was one of our families favorite places in RI! Wright’s Dairy Farm and Bakery (200 Woonsocket Hill Road, North Smithfield, RI) Wright’s dairy farm is a place we enjoy visiting often. We love to say hello to the cows, chickens, and farm dog, and then stop into the bakery (which opened in the early ’70s out of the family kitchen!) for a delicious pasty and a coffee milk! If you remember, we bought all the pies for Avery’s 2nd Birthday party at Wright’s! At the farm they not only care for and milk their cows but also pasteurize and bottle their fresh local dairy milk right there on Woonsocket Hill Road.
You are also able to watch the cows being milked daily from 3pm to 5pm! Definitely take the time to visit. You will not be disappointed!
Next stop was The Manville Dam (1 Manville Hill Road, Cumberland, Rhode Island) This was a beautiful and relaxing spot with a large wetland-perfect for spotting waterfowl. There is a canoe ramp, and the area is a good place for a picnic. It is being improved into Manville Landing – a small riverside park with docks and interpretive signs about the history of the area.
We made a stop at The Kelly House and Blackstone River and Canal (Lower River Road, Lincoln, RI) Our family often visits this area, as we love the beautiful bike path!
Once the home of a canal boat captain, the Kelly House is where all of the transportation stories of the Blackstone River Valley come together. Situated between the Blackstone River and the Blackstone Canal, the museum shows the history of the river and canal as a means of transportation from the Native American peoples to the pinnacle of the Industrial Revolution.
The site is open April through October 9 am to 4:30 pm daily.
The bike path is a wonderful place to ride a bike, walk or jog, and you can cross country ski or snowshoe in the snowy months!
We also learned that the Blackstone Valley now has National Park status! For more information on that click HEREWe returned to Pawtucket, and visited Slater Mill (67 Roosevelt Avenue, Pawtucket, RI ) The Slater Mill complex includes the Slater Mill (1793), birthplace of American industry, the Sylvanus Brown House (1758), an early skilled worker’s home, and the Wilkinson Mill (1810) which houses an authentic nineteenth- century machine shop and a reconstructed 16,000-lb. water wheel. We’ve visited Slater Mill a few times, and it’s a fascinating place to learn about the people of the early industrial revolution, and the tools & machines they used!
I had a wonderful day touring and exploring the Blackstone Valley! It gave me a newfound love of the rich history of the region, and showed me a few new places to take my family, and out of town visitors!
Have you been to any of these sites? Which is your favorite?