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Woonsocket #38: RI’s Best Communities 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

 

Woonsocket

Moving up one spot from last place in 2011, this once-great Industrial Revolution center continues the struggle to find its feet amid myriad challenges, from poverty to educational opportunity for its youth. The mansions perched on its ridges, built from riches made from the powerful drops of the Blackstone River, remind locals what once was. And as reforming organizations such as nationally lauded RiverzEdge make headway with Woonsocket's at-risk student population, one wonders if there may still be a future as bright as the past.

While the city has moved up a notch, leaving Central Falls to take last place in the 2012 rankings, economic indicators have not improved for Woonsocket. Median household income has dropped, from $41,001 in 2011, to $38,625 in 2012. Housing prices have also declined since last year. The good news? Woonsocket moved up one notch in 2012's Education rankings, to #36, and in Safety, to #35. This was enough to nudge into the #38 spot and, one hopes, provide some momentum for the future.

Woonsocket by the numbers

Established: 1867
Population: 41,186
Median household income: $38,625
Median housing price: $142,000

2012 Best Communities rankings

Overall ranking: 38
Affordability ranking: 30
Education ranking: 36
Economic condition ranking: 38
Safety ranking: 35
Arts & Culture ranking: 29
Restaurants & Bars ranking:  6

Woonsocket's history in a nutshell:

The quiet region full of dense woods now known as Woonsocket was first settled in the 17th century. Rich with a history of Indian influence, the origin of the city's name has numerous theories, but the proposal of a translation “thunder mist” from the falls on the Blackstone may be the most popular. Early settlers of Woonsocket used the abundant water supply around them to water their crops and drive industry which resulted in early growth. Between 1810 and 1830, six manufacturing villages sprouted out of nowhere. With new settlers arriving in Woonsocket seemingly every day, it became a lively, ethnically diverse community. Manufacturing still remains as one of Woonsocket’s primary forms in income but to a much lesser extent. However, its central location and navigational convenience make it a prime area for residence and business development.

Famous residents:

Greg Abate, musician
Rocco Baldelli, baseball player
Latimer Whipple Ballou, congressman
Bryan Berard, hockey player
Brian Boucher, hockey player
Marcel Desaulniers, chef
Eddie Dowling, actor, screenwriter and songwriter
Allen Doyle, golfer
Draco and the Malfoys, wizard rock band
Denise Duhamel, poet
Eileen Farrell, opera soprano
Ernest Fortin, theology professor
Stuart Gitlow, physician
Brian Harnois, paranormal investigator
Gabby Hartnett, baseball player and manager
Ambrose Kennedy, congressman
Clem Labine, baseball player
Nap Lajoie, baseball player
Catherine J. Lanctot, law professor and legal scholar
Neil Lanctot, historian and author
Francis Leo Lawrence, college president
William C. Lovering, congressman
James McAndrews, congressman
J. Howard McGrath, politician
Dave McKenna, jazz pianist
Edwin O'Connor, radio personality and novelist
Aram J. Pothier, governor
Duke Robillard, blues guitarist
Christopher Robinson, congressman
Mathieu Schneider, hockey player
Bill Summers, umpire

Famous residents source: Wikipedia.

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