Woonsocket (43,224) was first settled in the late 17th century near Woonsocket Falls, where the Blackstone River flows over the waterway's largest falls. This water power fed the growth of manufacturing industries, particularly textile mills, during the 19th century.
The mills recruited thousands of French Canadian immigrants, giving Woonsocket a unique ethnic flavor. The story of these immigrants is told at the Rhode Island Historical Society's Museum of Work and Culture, a heritage tourism attraction that draws more than 15,000 visitors annually.
The museum also functions as a Blackstone River Valley Heritage Corridor Visitor Center. The city provided the vacant historic industrial building, once owned by the Barnai Worsted Company and later the Lincoln Textile Company, that was transformed into the museum, and the city offers ongoing support for the facility.
The city has also supported a number of other preservation and tourism initiatives in recent years, including rehabilitation of the Stadium Theater (1926), restoration of Market Square, Main Street revitalization projects, creation of a new riverfront park, and adaptive use of an historic railroad depot as offices.
Designated a Preserve America Community in June 2004.