This was the least enjoyable of the tours I took in 2009. Since taking the tour I've researched the situation and it makes sense now but at the time I was confused and disappointed. I'm going to write up the tour as I experienced it and add the new information at the end of the review.
The map in the tour brochure indicated that I should park by tour stop number one, Amos Arnold's Mill. The tour brochure has the following description:
Today, only a grain storage shed, now restored, remains from the old Arnold Mills. Behind the storage shed, you can see the stone foundation of the gristmill (c.1745-1962). The sawmill (c.1734-1862) was located on the west end of the dam across the river. The millrace-the fast moving stream that powered the mill-now runs under the parking lot to the site of the machine shop.
The map and description had me expecting to find a restored grain shed with some signs and paths pointing me to the views of the other ruins. When I arrived on a nice Monday afternoon I was confused seeing this:
From my car it appeared to be an antique shop that was not open on Mondays or possibly abandoned. There were no signs of any kind that I could see other than the name Pentimento on top of the building. The bridge on Sneech Pond Road was clearly closed to traffic although it did appear to be open to pedestrians. The mailbox opposite the building looked like it was at the driveway of a private residence.
Not seeing any signs or other indications of the historical sites it didn't feel right to park in the Pentimento shop's parking area and the road didn't seem an appropriate place to park either. So I decided to drive to the bridge from the other side of Sneech Pond Road hoping there might be some parking that looked appropriate. Coming to the other road entrance from Route 120 (Nate Whipple Highway) I was encouraged by the BRVNHC sign (photo at top of page).
Driving down the narrow road I soon discovered that this was an even less appropriate place to park my car for the tour. The homes down by the bridge hugged the road giving me the feeling that if I parked here I would be in the way of the residents. Rather than give up and go home I decided to head down the highway to the Methodist Church (tour stop #5). Since the church is adjacent to a cemetery I figured there would be some public parking there.
When I arrived at the church I found that the side of the parking lot adjacent to the cemetery had a RI historic cemetery sign. This made me feel comfortable that this was a good place to park my car and walk the tour. Since I was beginning a long way from the brochure start point I decided to improvise the tour.
Just before the bridge I saw Pawtucket Water Supply Board no trespassing signs on a house and the land upstream of the bridge.
As I said at the start of this review, this tour left me confused and disappointed. The National Park Service Walking tour brochure appears to have been produced June 2001, eight years before my visit. That's plenty of time for many things to have changed in Arnold Mills.
The first item I researched was the Pentimento shop at tour stop number one, Amos Arnold's Mill. Searching the net I found some information in the 2007 edition of "Rhode Island Off the Beaten Path" by Robert Patrick Curley, page 80 . Pentimento antique shop is the restored grain storage shed for Amos Arnold's Mill. It has a deck in the back overlooking the river dam, the mill foundation is behind the shop and it is open Wednesday through Saturday.
With this new information I figured I would just go back on a day the shop is open to check out the site. That was until I found a Valley Breeze newspaper article, it says the Pentimento shop is now owned by the Pawtucket Water Supply Board. I haven't found any information about the PWSB's plans for the site but I hope they will preserve this historic location and allow the public to visit the grounds. When I travel near here in the future I plan to stop by to check the status of this property.
The Valley Breeze article is about an attempt to set up an Arnold Mills Historic District. The area is on the National Register of Historic Places but that doesn't protect an area. Only a state or local historic district can protect an historic area from changes by property owners. Not being a local historic district also explains why the historic buildings didn't all have identification signs.
Google searches also found some photos of the Abbot Run Bridge uploaded one month before my visit, but since removed from flickr. I hadn't found them before my visit because at that site the bridge is called the Arnold Mills Bridge. This pointed me to a blog for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation with more information about the bridge closing. I hope the RI DOT doesn't tear down and replace the bridge with a modern concrete and steel structure. The bridge could be restored like the Rawson Road Bridges or better yet to my mind, they could permanently make it a walking only bridge and restore the entire deck to timber only with pedestrian access to the whole surface.
This was the least enjoyable of the seven walking tours I took in 2009 although it was still a fun day. It is encouraging that there is an effort to get a local historic district setup. With the co-operation of the Pawtucket Water Supply Board, the RI DOT and landowners who can afford it, the town could end up with a nice historic district and recreation area in the future.
Some time in 2010 I plan to visit another site mentioned in the NPS tour brochure, the old Monastery and Nine Men's Misery Monument. I'll have to stop back by Arnold Mill's and check out the mill site and see if the conditions have improved.
More Information about Arnold Mills
Some other attractions in Arnold Mills
Last Updated 03/31/2013