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Fall River City

Bristol County, Massachusetts

Fall River City Hall is located at 1 Government Center, Fall River MA 02722.
Phone: 508‑324‑2634.


Beginnings [1]

For more than 3,000 years the falls of the Quequechan River have attracted people and commerce. In 1670, the main camp of the Pocasset tribe of the Wompanoags was located near the falls where they could hunt, fish, farm, and travel up the Taunton River and along the coast to the Cape to trade.

By 1680 colonial settlers moved into the area and began farming, fishing, and establishing cottage industries that often relied on waterpower. A small village developed in the Steep Brook area on the city's northern end served as a stop between Boston and Newport, Rhode Island. Later the farms and developing mills were increasingly clustered along the Quequechan River.

By 1812, Fall River had three sawmills, four gristmills, and one fulling mill. Iron manufacturing was underway, and in 1821 the Fall River Iron Works opened. Fall River's location, close to both New York and Boston and on a navigable waterway, made it an ideal spot for commerce and many textile mills were built in the 1800s. The mills continued to flourish and Fall River became a center for European immigrants who were eager to work and live in "triple deckers" — inexpensive mill housing. Dense neighborhoods provided stability and support for families moving to America and served as stepping stones for others from the same family or village. These strong neighborhoods have been a core feature of the community for more than a hundred years and continue to be a factor in the city's character.

While the mill industry played a major role in the city's early development it also became an overriding factor when, in the 1920s, the bottom fell out of the market and manufacturing of cotton goods moved elsewhere. Today, many of the mill buildings have been converted to retail "mill outlets" or to apartments or condominiums. Some mills continue and others stand idle.

Being located between New York and Boston and Cape Cod has also played an important role in the city's development. Until the Second World War, the primary mode of transportation was the Fall River Line. Steamships provided an inexpensive means for moving people and goods up and down the coast. Since the War, the highway system has eclipsed the importance of the harbor.

  1. City of Fall River Master Plan 2008-2030, www.fallriver.org, accessed September 2009.

Nearby Towns: Swansea Town • Tiverton Town •