Stop 6: Slatersville Worker Housing

Slatersville worker housing along street
Slatersville Worker Housing

Would you want to live where you work? These are some of the earliest worker houses built here in Slatersville around 1810. Originally, these were very plain, multi-family worker homes. Four families inhabited each house: two families on the first floor and two families on second floor and attic space. On average, one of these Slatersville homes would have housed between 20 to 45 occupants. This would have made for cramped living conditions.

Although family units shared a house, each family had their own living space. For the most part, everyone in these homes worked for the Slaters. This system, known as the Rhode Island System of Manufacture, or the Slater System, used the entire family for employment in the mills. Fathers often worked on the company owned farm or as mechanics fixing the machines, while mothers and children worked in the mill. About 88% of the laborers in Slater-owned mills came from families employed by the company and living in company houses.

SLatersville Mill houses along road
Slatersville Worker Housing

Children were the driving force behind this system. H. Humphrey, a noted 19th century author, wrote, “Our children must have employment – must be brought up in habits of industry. It is sinful, it is cruel to neglect this essential branch of their education.” Today, children in the United States are obligated to receive a different kind of education, one that does not involve a factory. Many would even view the Slaters’ use and manipulation of children in mills today as sinful or cruel. This marks a major change from how children lived in Slatersville throughout most of the nineteenth century.

In the 1920s, these mill houses you are now looking at were converted to single-family management homes, by the then owner of the mill, Henry Kendall. Kendall added ornamental touches like side porches, fancier doorways, and white picket fences as part of his efforts to restore Slatersville.


Last updated: September 8, 2022

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