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Central Falls, Rhode Island facts for kids

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City of Central Falls
Central Falls Mill Historic District
Central Falls Mill Historic District
"A City With A Bright Future"
Location in Providence County and the state of Rhode Island.
Location in Providence County and the state of Rhode Island.
Country United States
State Rhode Island
County Providence
Settled 1675
Incorporated February 25, 1895
 • Type Mayor-council
 • Total 1.27 sq mi (3.30 km2)
 • Land 1.19 sq mi (3.09 km2)
 • Water 0.08 sq mi (0.21 km2)
89 ft (27 m)
 • Total 22,583
 • Density 18,929/sq mi (7,308.4/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
Area code(s) 401
FIPS code 44-14140
GNIS feature ID 1218931

Central Falls is a city in Providence County, Rhode Island, United States. The population was 22,583 at the 2020 census. With an area of only 1.29 square miles (3.3 km2), it is the smallest and most densely populated city in the smallest state, and the 27th most densely populated incorporated place in the United States. It is also one of only four incorporated places in New England that have a higher population density than the city of Boston (ranking fourth, behind the Massachusetts cities of Somerville, Chelsea and Cambridge, all inner suburbs of Boston). The city takes its name from a waterfall on the Blackstone River.

In May 2010, Central Falls went into receivership, then filed for bankruptcy August 1, 2011.


Prior to the arrival of Europeans the area was home to Nipmuc, Wampanoag and Narragansett peoples.

Post Office and Fire Station, Central Falls, RI
Broad Street c. 1908
U.S. Cotton Co., Central Falls, RI
U.S. Cotton Co. c. 1910

Central Falls has historic significance as being the site of a major battle during King Philip's War. It was here on March 26, 1676 that Narragansett Indians ambushed Captain Michael Pierce and his Plymouth Colony troops who (with 20 Wampanoag Christian Indians) were pursuing them. Nearly all those ambushed were killed. A stone memorial marks the mass grave at the site known as "Nine Men's Misery".

In the 18th century, Captain Stephen Jenks built a trip hammer and blacksmith shop along the Blackstone River, forming the nucleus of what would eventually become Central Falls. Other manufacturers, including a chocolate maker, set up shop in the building and the new village became known as Chocolateville.

In 1824, Stephen Jenks suggested the name Central Falls, thus giving the village its permanent name.

Originally, Central Falls was one of the many villages within the town of Smithfield, but in 1871, having experienced a growth spurt, it split into three smaller towns: Smithfield, North Smithfield and Lincoln. Central Falls then became part of the town of Lincoln. Lincoln experienced its own growth spurt, so in 1895 Lincoln split into two towns, giving birth to the city of Central Falls.

While Quakers made up the majority of the first European settlers in the area, they were soon followed by a diverse mix of immigrants from Ireland, Scotland and French Canada. By the 20th century, Central Falls had experienced its own population explosion and for a while was the most densely populated city in the United States. In recent decades, a large number of Hispanic immigrants have found a home in Central Falls. Central Falls has always been an extremely diverse city, so much so that when the city celebrated its 100th anniversary with a parade in 1995, more than 100 countries were represented.


Central Falls is located at 41°53′24″N 71°23′33″W / 41.89000°N 71.39250°W / 41.89000; -71.39250 (41.889863, -71.392606).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 1.3 square miles (3.4 km2), of which, 1.2 square miles (3.1 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (6.20%) is water. It is drained by the Blackstone River.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 18,167
1910 22,754 25.2%
1920 24,174 6.2%
1930 25,808 6.8%
1940 25,248 −2.2%
1950 23,550 −6.7%
1960 19,858 −15.7%
1970 18,716 −5.8%
1980 16,995 −9.2%
1990 17,637 3.8%
2000 18,928 7.3%
2010 19,376 2.4%
2020 22,583 16.6%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 18,928 people, 6,696 households, and 4,359 families residing in the city. The population density was 15,652.0 people per square mile (6,039.8/km2). There were 7,270 housing units at an average density of 6,011.7 per square mile (2,319.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 57.16% White, 5.82% African American, 0.57% Native American, 0.68% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 28.35% from other races, and 7.38% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 47.77% of the population.

There were 6,696 households, out of which 38.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 36.4% were married couples living together, 21.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.9% were non-families. 29.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.74 and the average family size was 3.38.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 29.2% under the age of 18, 11.8% from 18 to 24, 31.6% from 25 to 44, 15.8% from 45 to 64, and 11.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $22,628, and the median income for a family was $26,844. Males had a median income of $23,854 versus $18,544 for females. The per capita income for the city was $10,825. About 25.9% of families and 29.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 40.8% of those under age 18 and 29.3% of those age 65 or over.

As of the 2010 U.S. Census, Central Falls was the only majority-minority municipality in Rhode Island with 60.31 percent of its residents identifying as Hispanic/Latino with Puerto Ricans, Guatemalans, and Colombians making up the largest share among the ethnicity.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau's American Community Survey, Central Falls had a median household income of $28,901 during the 2012-2016 estimates, making it the poorest municipality in Rhode Island.

National historic places in Central Falls

  • Central Falls Congregational Church
  • Central Falls Mill Historic District
  • Central Street School
  • Samuel B. Conant House
  • David G. Fales House
  • Benjamin F. Greene House
  • Holy Trinity Church
  • Jenks Park & Cogswell Tower
  • South Central Falls Historic District
  • St. Joseph Church
  • St. Matthew Church (now Holy Spirit Parish)
  • Valley Falls Mill
  • Valley Falls Mill, Office and Bath House


Central Falls High School, Central Falls RI
Central Falls High School

Residents are served by the Central Falls School District. This school district is funded and appointed by the State of Rhode Island Department of Education.

In February 2010, the entire faculty and administrative staff of Central Falls High School was fired after the teachers' union refused to accept one of the "No Child Left Behind" options for restructuring failing schools. In accordance with NCLB legislation, schools deemed failing have four options to follow for restructuring. The teachers' union refused to accept to work 25 minutes of extra time under the "transforming model", so the superintendent proceeded and chose the "turnaround model", which requires a district to fire the entire staff (teachers and administrators). They may rehire up to 50% of the teachers for the beginning of the next school year. The school has a graduation rate of around 50%, and 7% of 11th-graders were proficient in mathematics in 2009. This school had been identified as one of the worst in the state. The teachers union sued the school district, challenging the requirement that teachers must reapply for their jobs. The Obama administration sided with the school board. In May 2010, the teachers were rehired when they agreed to work the extra time required.

As of the year 2000 US census, 5.9% of Central Falls residents age 25 and older have a bachelor's or advanced college degree.

There has been at least one Catholic school present in Central Falls since 1895. By 1908, there were three: St. Matthew's, Holy Trinity, and Notre Dame. In 1995, these three schools were combined to create St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Academy, which is located in the building originally serving St. Matthew's. Currently, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Academy is the only non-public school in Central Falls.

Notable people

  • Lincoln Carter Almond, 72nd Governor of Rhode Island; grew up in Central Falls
  • Michael Breault, game designer, editor and author; born in Central Falls
  • Malcolm Greene Chace, financier, head of Berkshire Fine Spinning Associates; born in Central Falls
  • Francis Condon, US congressman representing Rhode Island's 1st congressional district; born in Central Falls
  • Viola Davis, Academy Award-winning actress; grew up in Central Falls
  • Carl Russell Fish, historian and professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; born in Central Falls
  • Roland Hemond, executive for several Major League Baseball teams; born in Central Falls
  • Jack McGee, aviation pioneer; born in Central Falls
  • Glyn O'Malley, playwright; grew up in Central Falls
  • Charles Risk, US congressman representing Rhode Island's 1st congressional district; born in Central Falls
  • John Robitaille, US Army captain; unsuccessful politician Rhode Island gubernatorial candidate (2010); born in Central Falls
  • Max Surkont, baseball player, Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago White Sox and Boston Braves; born in Central Falls

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