Burrillville (population 15,796) was established in 1730 and grew in the 1800s to be the largest producer of woolen goods in Rhode Island. The mills shaped the settlement of the town, which is comprised of eight village centers that developed around the mill complexes.
Portions of two villages—Harrisville and Oakland—are listed as historic districts in the National Register of Historic Places. A self-guided walking tour of Harrisville gives visitors insight into the mill village lifestyle of the 19th and early 20th centuries.
In the village of Bridgeton, a prominent historic building is the Bridgeton/Sweeney School (1897), a two-room schoolhouse that continued in use until 1995, making it the last such school of its kind in use in the State. Upon its closure, the town transferred the building to the Burrillville Historical and Preservation Society, which has rehabilitated the building as its headquarters and reopened it to the public.
In the nearby village of Pascoag, the town is planning development of a riverwalk on the Pascoag River with interpretive signage on the area's industrial history.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2004.