Restoration of Woonsocket's Main Street
No where are the changes that are taking place in Woonsocket more apparent than on Main Street.
Since the middle of the nineteenth century, Main Street has been the social and commercial center of the city. Market Square and Monument Square bracket the district and Depot Square provides a central focal point. The restoration of this historic area began in 1989 with the formation of the Main Street 2000 Corporation. The objectives of Main Street 2000 are simple - to restore Woonsocket's historic Main Street and rejuvenate it as a social and commercial center. The success of this project has been amazing and it is now being emulated by other cities and towns.
Unlike the reconstruction of the Social District in the 1970's where historic sites were demolished to make way for new buildings, the Main Street 2000 project attempts to maintain the city's nineteenth century character by renovating and restoring the historic buildings along Main Street. The renovations of the Glenark Mills and the Ballou-Harris-Lippitt Mills in the 1980's proved that Woonsocket's old buildings could be adapted to new uses. Some of the buildings along Main Street that have now been restored include Mulvey's Hardware, the Holder Block, the French Quarter, the Farrington Block, the Commercial Block and the Hope Building.
One of the cornerstones of the Main Street 2000 project was the construction of the River Island Park near Market Square in 1993. With walkways and benches, a canoe ramp and a bandstand for summer concerts, River Island Park provides visual and physical access to the Blackstone River. The park is now the site of Woonsocket's Riverfest and is the location of the Woonsocket Ice Skating Rink.
As part of the project, work began in the late 1990's on the reconstruction of Main Street and Market Square. Two-way traffic was restored to Main Street in 1997 and new, more attractive street lights and signs were added shortly thereafter. In Market Square, the site of water powered textile mills for over a hundred years, visitors can now follow brick walkways along the course of the mill trenches that formerly ran through the area. The Market Square Pavilion, a tower reminiscent of the bell towers of Woonsocket's former mills, contains information on area attractions and nearby historical sites. Nearby is the Woonsocket Landing - a dock for the Blackstone Valley Explorer.
Three cultural organizations have brought new life to Woonsocket's Main Street area. In Market Square, the Rhode Island Historical Society's Museum of Work and Culture tells the story of French Canadian immigrants who left Quebec to come to work in the mills and factories of Woonsocket. In Depot Square, the former Providence Worcester Railroad Station in now the home to the Blackstone Valley National Heritage Corridor. In Monument Square, the Stadium Theatre is being restored to its former glory and has numerous productions planned throughout the year. For more information about the revitalization of historic Main Street, visit the Main Street 2000 web site.
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