Cricket Field

Cricket Field offers a gateway between Johnston and North Providence, promoting the appreciation of the natural environment and healthy living along the river. Restoration of this neighborhood oasis transformed the park from an abandoned lot to an idyllic respite which will one day connect to the Woonasquatucket River Greenway. Learn more here about how to support WRWC’s efforts to continue revitalizing community around the Woony!

What We Have Now

  • 2.6 acre city-owned park in Johnston, RI
  • 1/3 mile walking trails around park
  • Wetlands boardwalk and overlook at dam
  • Native plantings along embankments
  • Historic markers educating neighbors on native plants & wildlife, and history of Cricket Field
  • Boat launch with map of areas available to canoers and kayakers
  • Quaint gazebo with seating
  • Artistic iron fencing

How We Got Here

  • During the Industrial Revolution, Cricket Field once hosted cricket games by mill workers from the nearby Greystone Mills, as well as other social events.
  • After industry left the area in the early 1900’s, the park became passive, though hosting a few amenities like picnic tables, a small sign and playground – all regularly marked by graffiti.
  • During the early 2000s, neighbors and officials were looking for ways to revitalize the park, including ideas for an off leash dog park.
  • At the same time, the WRWC also recognized Cricket Field as the next potential park to connect along the Woonasquatucket River Greenway. The WRWC first became involved with the revitalization of Cricket Field when a Johnston police officer (Captain Jack Safford) organized a tree planting and cleanup day at the Park. The WRWC helped on this day and talked to residents about other projects that could be done at the park. The WRWC met with the Parks and Recreation Department and residents to discuss ideas for the park.
  • In 2006, WRWC hired designers to meet with local residents and come up with a concept for the park based on their ideas and priorities. From those meetings, two priorities rose to the top: the creation of a walking trail and renovation of the aging playground. The WRWC found grant funds available for the trails but not enough initially for the full renovation.
  • In 2011 the WRWC leveraged hundreds of thousands of dollars from RIDOT funding to update the plans to include historic markers, gazebo, wetlands boardwalk, park signage, new iron fencing surrounding the park, improved parking area and a new walking trail using pervious pavers and improved access to the Riverside Avenue neighbors. Though this neighborhood is not designated as an “official” historic area, the WRWC thought it appropriate to create amenities in tune with the architectural style of Greystone Mills.
  • In 2014, Cricket Field became a $1.2 million successful renovation and has since become an active park, hosting walkers, kids on bikes, canoers and kayakers, carnivals, and more. Keep your eyes open for continued changes in the park and hopefully a connection to the Woony River Greenway!


Cricket Field Industrial History

Greystone and the Joseph Benn Company
A Paternal Mill Tradition

Joseph Benn & Sons, Ltd., was one of a number of English textile manufacturers that located in Rhode Island around the turn of the 20th century to avoid foreign competition and U. S. protective tariffs on manufactured textile goods. They specialized in products made from wool, alpaca and mohair. The Benn Company built the mills and abundant worker housing and, more than that, they did much to make their imported English workers feel comfortable in America.

In 1904, the Joseph Benn Company occupied its new mill in Greystone, a sleepy little community on the North Providence side of the Woonasquatucket River. There had been textile making in the village for much of the 19th century, but at a very modest scale. A small stone mill and about six mill cottages were the only buildings standing there at the turn of the 20th century. The company spent two and one half million dollars to construct the new mill, social club, housing and the massive Whitehall Building. In a few years, the population of the village went from 60 to over 1500 people.

The Benn workforce came here from England with a background in mill work, unlike the majority of the Irish, French Canadians and southern Europeans who came to New England with a farming background. The English were accustomed to the monotony and discipline of factory work.

The Benn Company believed in good, old-fashioned company paternalism as we picture it in the early days of the mill villages. The owners of the Benn Company felt that a happy worker was a good worker. Their workforce was highly trained and skilled, and it made good business sense to give them extra perks that were on the way out in most other factory villages. Profit was their main goal, but the mill owners knew mill work was monotonous and often dangerous. To alleviate the monotony, the company provided benefits that would not be expected in most mill villages in Rhode Island during the early 20th century. These included the organization of a cricket team (Benn’s Mohairs), library groups, craft activities, bands and choral groups.

The Life, Recreation and Leisure of a Benn Mill Worker
A Paternal Mill Tradition

One of the most important institutions of the village was the Greystone Social Club. It was the social center of the village.

The club was formed in 1904 so that workers could gather nightly as they had in Yorkshire, England. By 1907 the company had erected a building for the club, where all the fraternal organizations of the village met. The Social Club housed a billiard room, reading room, smoking room and a buffet room. It sponsored such social events as a series of handicap games in December, an English feast every month (featuring “truly English entertainment””, an annual Christmas celebration and weekly dances.

Sports were very important in Greystone for participants and spectators. The mill cricket team (named Benn’s Mohairs), played in a league against other mill teams in the metro-Providence area. Spectators dressed in white to watch the matches. The company donated this land for Cricket Field on Angell Avenue in Johnston.

Water carnivals along the river became quite famous. Swimmers and divers from around New England came to the Woonasquatucket River to compete for prizes. Canoe and boat races were held. In the winter months, ice polo was played on the river. There were also tennis courts, playgrounds, a boy scout troop, gymnasium classes and sewing classes.

In 1938, the Benn Company sold its housing to tenants and closed the plant. One resident of the village recalls that, ‘It was never the same after that,” referring to the effects of the sale.