History of Pontiac Mills in Warwick

Jeremy Ashman, Contributor

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Back in 1863, the historic Pontiac Mills was built by Robert Knight and his brother Benjamin Knight. Their company was known as the B.B. and R. Knight Company. These mills were very important during the American Civil War because they made Union Soldier’s Uniforms. In 1863 the Pontiac Mills adopted the name “Fruit of the Loom” for textiles. The Pontiac Mills thrived in the late 1800s making clothing for all of New England. Also in 1863 Abe Lincoln dedicated the Mill Tower at Pontiac Mills. In 1871 the name “Fruit of the Loom” received U.S. patent number 220 making it one of the first 500 patents received in U.S. History. In 1875 the Pontiac Mills were among the most well-known building in Rhode Island. According to the Rhode Island Historian Oliver Payson Fuller in his 1875 History of Warwick notes he said, “No one of the villages on the Pawtuxet River and its tributaries has been designated by so many different names in the course of its history, as the one we have now come to.” He talks about how the Pontiac Mills was one of the greatest Mills in Rhode Island history because of all it is great contributions. In 1891 this company introduced consumers unconditional guarantee which is a type of guarantee that renders a guarantor liable for all past, present and future obligations of the business. In 1972 the Pontiac Mills was added to the National Register of Historic Places. Sadly, Pontiac Mills closed in 1970. All of these items were produced in the Pontiac Mills and overtime while the success grew into other mills around the world. Now that you know the history of the Pontiac Mills let’s begin to talk about what is going on now with the Pontiac Mills.


Some of the Pontiac Mills is now being used for what is known today as NYLO or New York Lofts. This was built in 2008 with 163 rooms. Unfortunately, it had to be closed down in 2010 due to a severe flood by Hurricane Harvey. As a local woman named Jana Ashman said: “the storm took out most of the Warwick mall and flooded many houses including my own”. Many residents of the hotel were left without a home because of this storm. A few months after the purchase, in early 2015, an Investor named Silverstein met with members of the Pontiac Village Association, who greeted his plans with enthusiasm. Silverstein said, “that such a greeting is not always the case when he starts a project, particularly in urban areas, where most of his redevelopments have taken place.” According to a Pontiac Village neighbor William Ashman, he said that he would like to see the Pontiac Mills back be revived and used for something useful. He also stated that it should have a Historical Statue for all its accomplishments. Now in 2018 NYLO is back up and running on 400 Knight Street in Warwick, Rhode Island.