Photo Essay

  • The Pawtucket/Central Falls railroad station has been in disuse since 1981.
  • A man repairs a bike along Sylvania Street on May 26, 2014 in Central Falls.
  • A boarded up Shell gas station located on Broad Street in Central Falls is one of many vacant buildings in the city.
  • Eulaio Zayas, 49, sits in his enclosed porch on Sylvania Street, a street that is scarred with boarded up homes in Central Falls.
  • The Osram Sylvania Plant Central Falls will close its operation in September leaving 88 workers without jobs, including Mayor Diossa’s father who has worked at the plant for 30 years.
  • Central Falls Mayor James Diossa, joins neighboring town, Lincoln, for their Annual Memorial Day Parade on May 26, 2014.
  • Real estate developer M Residential has converted this old mill on Roosevelt Avenue in Central Falls, into lofts. The company plans to repurpose the building next door for the same purposes.
  • This Victorian style house facing Central Falls High School will be repurposed by the city into a tutoring facility.
  • A waitress sweeps the floor at Sparky's Restaurant on Memorial Day in Central Falls, Rhode Island.
  • Boarded up buildings on Dexter Street in Central Falls.
  • The old Veterans Hall in Central Falls is being demolished to make room for a playground by the city.
  • Youths play at a park along High Street in Central Falls on May 26, 2014.
  • ESS Solutions of Providence has recently opened a manufacturing center on High Street in Central Falls to manufacture gun barrels.
  • The Wyatt Detention Center in Central Falls has been at the center of recent scandals but is currently one of the options to bring money back to the city.
  • A young man sits at the top of Cogswell Tower at Jenks Park on Memorial Day in Central Falls, Rhode Island.
  • Central Falls, Rhode Island is seen from Jenks Park, a historical site in Central Falls.
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The slow death and rebirth of Central Falls

Updated

If Rhode Island was the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution, then Central Falls was its cradle. 

American textile manufacturing first took hold in Central Falls and the neighboring town of Pawtucket, creating a booming mill town. First producing chocolate and snuff, the mills came to produce “clothing, tools, brooms, aprons, badges, candy, beverage bottles, lace, braid, hosiery, webbing, belting, spools, art goods, rayon, mills supplies, monuments, and knitting machines,” according to the city. That drew early waves of European immigrants from Canada, Ireland, Poland, and Portugal, whose descendants still live in the area. In the 1960s and 1970s, a labor shortage prompted a second wave of immigrants from Latin America to begin coming to the area.

In Central Falls, as elsewhere in America, globalization and advances in technology slowed the town’s economic engine. The relics of the town’s industrial boom years remain scattered throughout the tiny city of Central Falls. The city and private developers have tried to repurpose some of the old factory sites. But others are still shuttered and abandoned as the town struggles to reinvent itself.

For more feature photography, go to msnbc.com/photography