Doors Open R.I. offers keys to the city

Doors Open R.I. offers keys to the city

The interior of the Cogswell Tower in Central Falls, above, is one of this year’s locations for the Doors Open R.I. festival. (Photos Courtesy of Design Imaging Studios)

PAWTUCKET – Have you ever wondered what architectural and historical treasures hide behind closed doors in downtown Pawtucket and nearby Central Falls?

Locations normally inaccessible to the public will open their doors on Saturday, Sept. 28, offering visitors a unique peek behind the curtain.

The free festival is hosted by Doors Open R.I., part of a nationwide “Doors Open” movement that strives to strengthen the connections between people and the places around them.

Caroline Stevens, who serves as director of the volunteer-led organization Doors Open R.I., summarized the festival as “connecting people to places and people to people.” Stevens brought the festival to Rhode Island in 2017, when more than 4,000 people explored 24 locations across the city.

Among this year’s festival opportunities, participants will be allowed to ascend the Jenks Park Cogswell Tower in Central Falls – the highest point in the city, step into the dugout and player’s lounge at McCoy Stadium, explore the Isle Brewer’s Guild’s manufacturing and bottling facilities, and visit the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution at Slater Mill.

Stevens said a variety of mysteries are waiting to be uncovered on festival day. The tour of the Cogswell Tower, built in 1904, includes a look inside a rarely seen grotto that sits under the tower, “complete with an unexpected pool of crystal-clear water.”

The vacant, unassuming exterior of a building on Pawtucket’s Main Street features an enormous stained glass and copper-clad dome within; all that remains of the city’s branch of the Industrial Trust Company Bank, which operated there from 1901 to 1951.

Then, there’s the To Kalon Club (taken from the Greek phrase meaning “the good, beautiful hospitality”), a former men’s club founded in 1867 by a group of prominent local textile magistrates and industrialists. Today, the clubhouse is home of The Public Archaeology Laboratory Inc., which purchased the Main Street building in 2011 and launched an extensive rehabilitation.

That painstaking transformation took 10 months, according to PAL’s director Deborah Cox.

Offering The Valley Breeze a behind-the-scenes tour of the building ahead of the festival, Cox and employees at PAL said they were eager to welcome guests on Sept. 28.

“You can still ring the butler from any room,” Cox says, though of course PAL does not employ one. Today, the former bedrooms of the clubhouse are offices, the sitting room is a conference room, and the bowling alley serves as the company’s artifact room. Much of the building’s original furniture remains.

On festival day, guests can learn more about PAL’s archaeological research, including a look at some of the artifacts the cultural resource management firm has unearthed around New England.

Other festival locations include:

• Pawtucket City Hall, the state’s first project completed under the public works programs of FDR’s New Deal. Mayor Don Grebien will personally invite visitors into his office for an inside look at city government.

• National Grid’s Historic Bridge Mill Power Station in Pawtucket, which once served as the main source of power to downtown. The power house, which was deactivated in the 1960s and opened briefly as a museum in the 1990s, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as “perhaps the finest 19th century example of this building type remaining in R.I.”

• La Galeria @RILA (Rhode Island Latino Arts), an art gallery in Central Falls focused on promoting, encouraging and preserving the art, history and heritage of R.I.’s Latino communities.

• Pawtucket’s now-vacant Pawtucket Elk’s Lodge, a Spanish Renaissance Revival style building featuring a mezzanine overlooking Pawtucket and theater space.

This year’s festival will also include a scavenger hunt. Participants can grab a clue sheet at any of the festival sites and are encouraged to play along to win prizes.

The festival is completely free of charge and does not require reservations. The event runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; however, some of the opening times may vary based on location.

Those interested in learning more about the festival and its participating venues are encouraged to visit doorsopenri.org .

The central staircase at the historic To Kalon Club in Pawtucket.
This dome is hiding inside a vacant building on Main Street in Pawtucket, one of the last remaining relics of the Old Industrial Trust Company’s presence in the city.