Smithfield Real Estate
The 19th century served as a Golden Age for manufacturing in Smithfield and many other Rhode Island communities. During this period, old Smithfield was transformed from an agrarian society to a manufacturing center in Rhode Island. At the turn of the century, Smithfield possessed a population of 3,120 persons. Within the next 70 years, these numbers would increase by 430%.
Samuel Slater’s inventiveness in the harnessing of water energy for manufacturing gave birth to the creation of the textile industry in Rhode Island. Smithfield’s numerous waterways provided a perfect setting for the development of this economy. By the mid-1800’s, Smithfield had become the cotton manufacturing center in Rhode Island. These mill operatives initially utilized laborers of WASP (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant) descent. Very soon, however, Irish immigrants, and later French-Canadians became the predominant work force. Entire families including children as young as seven years worked in these mills.
Major new societal patterns of development emerged over the next few decades. One important outgrowth was the mill village. This type of village comprised a mill, mill store, housing for the work force, ancillary structures, and adjacent land areas, all of which were possessed by the mill owners. The mill village frequently was totally self sufficient and many residents never left the confines of the village. One of the first villages in Rhode Island based upon this concept was Slatersville, then a part of old Smithfield. Examples of villages existing today which developed upon this similar foundation are Stillwater, Georgiaville, Spragueville, and Esmond (previously known first as Allenville, then Enfield).
Within the last 50 years, Smithfield has witnessed a population boom of 308% (1950 Census – 6,690 persons/2000 Census – 20,613 persons). Until the mid-1960’s, Smithfield retained much of its rural character despite the growth of the residential areas. Construction of the Apple Valley Mall in the later 1960’s introduced the beginning of commercial expansion. Further encouragement was provided in the 1970’s by the construction of Interstate Route 295 which provided greater accessibility to and from the Town by both local commuters and out-of-town transients. The Smithfield sewer system built in the mid 1970’s has also stimulated increased development.
Today, the Town is experiencing continued growth. Fidelity Investments, the nation’s largest mutual fund company has located one of two New England regional centers in Smithfield. Smithfield is also the home of a division of Dow Chemical, Uvex Corporation, FGX International (AAi Foster Grant) and many other large and small companies. A regional shopping mall, “Smithfield Crossings” recently opened. The Town is also home to Bryant University, a top business school. Bryant University also was the location for the summer camp of the three-time NFL Super Bowl Champion New England Patriots until 2003.