Progress for some, discomfort for others
Hillsgrove began its change from a small village, with little or no commercial enterprise, to Warwick's industrial center when the Leviton Company purchased the old Elizabeth Mill in 1941. With the success of this venture in manufacturing, combined with the great migration from Providence that followed World War II, Hillsgrove began to attract the attention of the city officials. It was obvious that some changes had to be made. The question was "what kind would be the most beneficial?"
The Great Migration
In the period following World War II many sought the great American Dream of owning a home with a white picket fence in the suburbs. Thanks to veterans' benefits, many were able to pursue that dream and Warwick was selected for its suburban atmosphere and its proximity to Providence. In order to meet the increasing demands for schools, and police and fire protection that came to Warwick with the population growth in the 1950s, it was necessary to attract industry to alleviate the burden on the home owner.
The Warwick Industrial Foundation
To establish an industrial base, the Warwick Industrial Foundation was created. It selected the former Cole Farm for the site of the Pawtuxet Industrial Park. Later, the Foundation erected a building on Jefferson Boulevard in Hillsgrove. Realizing that the need for sewers was one of the prime concerns if Warwick was to grow prosperous, the city asked for money from the Federal Government to survey the area in Hillsgrove for that purpose. This was a significant step in the move to attract industry.
The all important Interstate Highways
In 1960, all of Warwick knew that Interstate Route 95 would go through the city and that Warwick would have a number of exit ramps from the new highway. This, of course, meant industry would be attracted to the Hillsgrove section of the city and, in 1960, Leesona moved onto Strawberry Field Road and Spiedel Corporation and the Mays Manufacturing Company moved into Hillsgrove. This expansion of the industrial base, and the later growth of industry on Jefferson Boulevard, gave Warwick the expanded tax base she desperately needed.
The years 1964 and 1970 proved to be most significant years as proposals for an east west link connecting Warwick and Cranston (Rt. 37), became a reality in 1965. Route I 95 was connected to it that year and, shortly after, I 95 was linked to Jefferson Boulevard. This further aided the industrial expansion.
Finally, in 1964, after decades of debate, ground was broken for a fifty acre sewage treatment plant that was put into operation off Service Road in Hillsgrove in 1965. Large scale industrial expansion had become a reality. While this was hailed by many in the city, the residents of Hillsgrove became concerned as they witnessed the beginning of the end of a life style they had grown comfortable with over the years.
Airport noise and other concerns
The coming of jet powered airplanes also caused a great deal of concern in Hillsgrove as most realized it would mean airport expansion. An almost constant struggle against the large, noisy planes grew in the later years of the twentieth century and promises to continue in the twenty-first century.
Many Hillsgrove residents have tried to stop the growth of industry south of the old Elizabeth Mill and have met with but limited success. The small, privately owned former mill houses are overshadowed by the giant companies that have moved to the area. The easy access to I 95 has turned Jefferson Boulevard into a main artery of commerce. At times, as fleets of trucks move from their base in the Hillsgrove area, some of the older villagers to stop and look in wonder as they try to find a place in this new world.
In addition, serious questions concerning noise, waste treatment and air pollution have been addressed by the city. Hopefully, modern technology and concern for the environment will help alleviate the distress which has disturbed so many residents of Hillsgrove and other sections of Warwick..
Hillsgrove will never again be the charming village of the early part of the century, but its concerned citizens are trying to maintain what is still there and have forced city officials to consider the major problems which occur with modern industrialization.
The story of Warwick's villages and changes will be continued.
Airport expansion has witnessed the growth of new business. Soon a rail station will be built on this site a mere 1200 feet from the airport. This will be the closest rail station to an airport in the country.
Photo by Don D'Amato