History of Fire and Fire Protection in
Nineteenth Century Woonsocket

Woonsocket Steamer #1
Steamer Company 1 in front
of St. James Church in 1875
In 1835, Woonsocket was home to a small but growing collection of textile-manufacturing firms. Powered by the Blackstone River and linked to the markets of the world by Blackstone Canal, the prospects for growth in Woonsocket seemed unlimited. That changed dramatically in April 1835 when fire swept through the heart of the Woonsocket Falls Village destroying several mills, the post office and a store. Known at the time as the "Great Fire" at Canal Square, the fire awaked the residents of Woonsocket to the need for protection from fire.

Over the course of the next century, Woonsocket would grow to become one of the country's great industrial centers. In the process, it would also become a leader in the implementation of effective fire prevention methods. Slow burning construction for mill buildings, an innovative and extensive water system and a modern fire department were all developed in Woonsocket in the nineteenth century.

Click on the play button below to see my interview with Glenn Laxton of Channel 12 Eyewitness News on the history of fire and fire protection in nineteenth century Woonsocket which aired on June 8, 2003.

You will need the RealPlayer™ to watch this movie. If your browser warns you that you don't have a necessary plug-in or helper application, you need to download and install the free RealPlayer here.

You can also read the presentation at I gave at the Museum of Work and Culture on March 30, 2003 that was the basis for this news story.

Fire and Fire Protection in Nineteenth Century Woonsocket pdf (PDF: 831KB, 20 Pages)

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Woonsocket Fire Department
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