Royal Mills, Rhode Island
Built in 1890, the Royal Mills in West Warwick, Rhode Island, operated as one of the world’s busiest hydro-powered cotton mills for over 30 years. Partially destroyed by fire in 1919, the Royal Mills endured 110 years of harsh weather and heavy industrial use as well as years of dormant neglect. In 2004, a Maryland based developer purchased the mill complex and undertook a multi-phased $92 million rehabilitation converting 465,400 square feet into one, two, and loft style bedroom apartments and 50,000 square feet into retail spaces. In order to receive the 20% Federal tax credits, the developer carefully preserved the spaces, features, and finishes that defined the historic character of the mill.
They restored the administration building, the clock tower, and the truss bridge. On the two large mill buildings, the masonry facades were repaired, original wood floors restored, and windows and doors were repaired or replaced according to the National Park Service’s historic preservation guidelines. Looms, gears, planks, stones and other artifacts found in the complex were tastefully re-purposed in signage, railings, public seating, pathways, decor and public areas throughout. Even the scenic waterfall that divides the complex adapted for a contemporary use. Instead of providing power to spin textiles, the waterfall now drives a state-of-the-art turbine creating 1000 MW hours of electricity per year - enough to power 100 houses – all without emitting an ounce of greenhouse gas.