First, a little history.
Fall River, Massachusetts, once the leading textile manufacturing center in the United States, has gone through years of struggle. Originally it was a site chosen by the Pokanoket Wampanoag Tribe for the abundance of water, and named by them for the small river that became steep falls which flowed into the Taunton River; the Quequechan or Falling River.
The original town was formed in 1803 as Fallriver, changed to Troy in 1804 and then to Fall River in 1834, and finally became a city in 1854. It is a city with a rise from the ashes spirit having done so after several massive fires, including a fire in 1928, which destroyed much of the downtown.
The city motto became “We’ll Try” signifying the movement to rebuild and reinvent that has been employed many times. At one time Fall River was made up largely of French Canadian and Irish immigrants but has become more diverse and now is home to the largest Portuguese population in America. It’s a city with a mixed past, challenging present and optimistic future.
Fall River was a prosperous city in the 19th and early 20th centuries largely due to the production of print clothing. At one point, six thousand people were employed in the industry. Sadly the mills began to close in 1923 due to competition from the South and the post-war slow down.
A City Once in Decline
The city that once housed elegant hotels, theaters, and a busy downtown with the original Five and Ten Cent Store, which later merged with F.W. Woolworth, and boasted granite quarries with the material used to build homes in Newport, was in decline.
By the 1930’s many mills had gone out of business and the city was bankrupt. The city center had been lost in a fire, and the rebuilding was slow.
Interstate 195 was constructed in the 1960’s bringing people near Fall River, but not near the waterfront. The Quequechan River was filled in and re-routed. The beautiful falls were diverted into underground culverts hiding the natural treasure and making water transport challenging.
The Braga Bridge, built to accommodate the highways, cut off the waterfront from the business district. The garment industry and manufacturing went away in the 1980’s to 1990’s leaving empty buildings, so Fall River began reinventing itself.