Harris Mill

Although the mill across the street is gone, what you see behind the Harris Mill Lofts sign is a classic example of the evolution of a mill over 150 years, starting small and adding on and on.

Between the street and the river a two-story spinning mill was built in 1813.  Then Elisha Harris replaced it with a cotton factory 34’ X 50’ to make heavy cotton sheetings.  Success led to expanding it to 34’ X 106’ but by the 21st Century only two derelict buildings remained there.

Like many mill owners, Mr. Harris became a politician as well.  As a Republican he served several terms in the Assembly before being elected Lieutenant Governor of Rhode Island in 1846. The following year Harris was elected Governor of Rhode Island and served a 1-year term.

After leaving the Governor’s office, he razed the 1822 mill on the south side of Main St and, in 1850, built the new and larger mill across the street that you see now.  New owners made additions in 1883 and in 1911 the Weave Shed (the large brick building) was built. 

Following industry trends toward consolidation and specialization in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Harris Mill later produced book cloth for Interlaken Mills (just up the river, now Arkwright Mill), one of the nation's largest suppliers of the cloth used by the publishing industry. In 1900, Interlaken Mills purchased the Harris Mill as part of its attempt to consolidate and control all of the processes for its book cloth production operations.  

In 1942 a booklet put out by the mill boasted it was producing “Industrial Gray Fabric of high tensile strength, using 150 bales of cotton per week.  It has 36,896 spindles, and produces 72,699 pounds, or 1,040,917 miles of yarn per week. It operates 872 Draper Automatic Looms, and weaves 319,248 yards of cloth each week…and employs 425 people.” 

In 1956, the Harris mill ceased textile operations and was purchased by the Victor Electric Wire and Cable Corp for light manufacturing, until that company left the state in 2000,

In 2006 redevelopment plans failed and the mill went into receivership.  In 2011 there was a fire in the main mill but the complex was saved.  The same company that developed the Anthony Mill took over Harris Mill in 2014, and redeveloped it as an upscale 156-unit, three-story loft apartment complex called Harris Mill Lofts.

For a pleasant quarter-mile walk take the Phenix-Harris Riverwalk on the old railroad bed just across the river on Lincoln St, on the left.