Chocolateville's Chocolate Mill Overlook is a Sweet Legacy in Central Falls
If you visit the bank of the Blackstone River in Central Falls, you’ll find an homage to the city’s chocolatey history: a tiny park called the Chocolate Mill Overlook.
The Overlook celebrates the William Wheat Chocolate Mill, one of the first water-powered chocolate mills in the country. In operation from the 1780s to the 1820s, the mill earned Central Falls the nickname of “Chocolateville.”
Chocolate milling was an essential part of the Industrial Revolution in the U.S., and the William Wheat Chocolate Mill was a major producer of chocolate for both local consumption and export. The mill was in operation during a period of sustained warfare and the chocolate was rationed to soldiers and sailors.
The William Wheat Chocolate Mill predates Slater Mill in Pawtucket, famously the first water-powered cotton mill in North America, by about 10 years. The mill was devastated by a storm in 1804, and was destroyed in the decades following.
At the park today, you can see the mill’s original foundation, as well as the intact Sylvanus Brown dam, which was built to serve the mill and was the first organized hydro-engineering in the region. A canoe and kayak landing affords paddlers an optimal vantage point of the historic site.
The Chocolate Mill Overlook is the smallest park in the smallest city in the smallest state, but it indicates a big historical moment for Rhode Island, a time when chocolate was at the heart of industry.