Arctic Mill

Few historic Rhode Island textile companies have survived to the present; but Arctic Mill was home for a number of years to global NATCO Home the 12th largest home textiles supplier.  It is still a family owned company which was founded four generations ago in Warwick by Arthur Galkin in 1917 whose motto was “Find the future before anybody else.”   They have been spectacularly successful at that and later moved their world headquarters just up the river to the Warwick Mill.

The Arctic Mill site was first developed in 1834 by Rufus Wakefield who produced woolen goods. Wakefield’s stone mill, 60’ X 40’, passed through a number of hands until it was finally torn down by A. W. Sprague, who bought the site in 1852 for $11,400. The Spragues built a large stone dam with a 30-foot fall, the highest in the state, and a large four-story stone cotton mill.  However, the building burned in 1865 but was rebuilt in the same year.  At the time it was the largest single mill in the state.

In 1885, the property was bought by B. B. & R. Knight, who operated 35,824 spindles and 1,039 looms in the mill. The Knights withdrew from textiles in the 20th century;  but the mill continued to be used for textile manufacture at least until 1939.  It is now occupied by the NEWCO Self Storage.

By the 1920s, Arctic had surpassed all other West Warwick villages in population. It was not only a major manufacturing center, but a commercial center whose department and specialty stores drew shoppers from all of central Rhode Island. The continued construction of densely developed commercial and residential buildings through the mid-twentieth century gave Arctic a more urban aspect than any of the town’s other villages. Arctic was central Rhode Island’s "Main Street" until the construction of Warwick’s shopping malls in the 1960s and 1970s altered patterns of commerce in the state.

If you have the time take a pleasant stroll down the ½ mi Riverwalk across the street in the back of the West Warwick Community Policing parking lot.  It follows the river down to Royal Mill but unfortunately the final bridge is washed out so you have to return to your starting point.

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