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Preserve America Community:
Warren, Rhode Island

The town of Warren, Rhode Island (population 11,000), is located on the east bank of the Warren River, an arm of Narraganset Bay. The town was named after a British naval hero, Admiral Sir Peter Warren, who was victorious at the battle of Louisburg, Nova Scotia, in 1745.

The town originally developed as a port town, an important whaling center, and a farming community. In the 19th century, the town became home to several large industrial concerns, including the Warren Manufacturing Company cotton mill.


Warren was the original site of the Indian village of Sowams and the home of Wampanoag Sachem Massasoit, the friend and ally of the Pilgrims. As early as 1632, a trading post was established at Sowams by the Plymouth settlers.

In 1636, Roger Williams, banished from Salem, fled to Sowams where he was sheltered by Massasoit until he settled at Providence. After the death of Massasoit, relations between the Indians and the settlers became strained, leading to King Philip's War in 1638.

At a very early date, the inhabitants of Warren began to engage in maritime pursuits. By 1760 the town was well known as a whaling port, and ship-building became an important industry. The Revolutionary War seriously affected Warren's commercial prosperity, and the town suffered British raids in 1778 along with the rest of the region.

Within the decade after the Revolution commerce revived, and until the middle of the 19th century, Warren was famous for the fine vessels launched from its yards. These vessels, largely commanded by Warren men and operated by Warren crews, engaged in whaling, merchant service, and the West India trade.

With the decline of the whaling industry and related seafaring commerce toward the middle of the 19th century, business attention turned to textile manufacturing. Warren's first cotton mill was erected by the Warren Manufacturing Company in 1847. Further mills and factories developed during and after the Civil War, attracting an immigrant work force.

A large part of the town is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as the Warren Waterfront Historic District, covering more than half of a square mile and more than 300 buildings; an area of farms and early 20th-century summer residences centered on Touisset Neck outside of the town center has slowly been replaced with year-round homes.

With Community Development Block Grant funds, the town is supporting rehabilitation work for the 2nd Story Theater, a professional theater company housed downtown in the historic French-Canadian benevolent and fraternal society building, Cercle Jacques Cartier Hall.


For more information

Town of Warren: www.townofwarren-ri.gov

Updated May 13, 2009

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