The slow death and rebirth of Central Falls
If Rhode Island was the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, then Central Falls was its cradle.
American textile manufacturing first took hold in Central Falls and the neighboring town of Pawtucket, creating a booming mill town. First producing chocolate and snuff, the mills came to produce “clothing, tools, brooms, aprons, badges, candy, beverage bottles, lace, braid, hosiery, webbing, belting, spools, art goods, rayon, mills supplies, monuments, and knitting machines,” according to the city. That drew early waves of European immigrants from Canada, Ireland, Poland, and Portugal, whose descendants still live in the area. In the 1960s and 1970s, a labor shortage prompted a second wave of immigrants from Latin America to begin coming to the area.
In Central Falls, as elsewhere in America, globalization and advances in technology slowed the town’s economic engine. The relics of the town’s industrial boom years remain scattered throughout the tiny city of Central Falls. The city and private developers have tried to repurpose some of the old factory sites. But others are still shuttered and abandoned as the town struggles to reinvent itself.