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Central Falls, Rhode Island

Coordinates: 41°53′30″N 71°23′28″W / 41.89167°N 71.39111°W / 41.89167; -71.39111
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City of Central Falls
Central Falls Mill Historic District
Official seal of City of Central Falls
"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.
Coordinates: 41°53′30″N 71°23′28″W / 41.89167°N 71.39111°W / 41.89167; -71.39111
CountryUnited States
StateRhode Island
IncorporatedFebruary 25, 1895
 • TypeMayor-council
 • MayorMaria Rivera
 • Total1.27 sq mi (3.30 km2)
 • Land1.19 sq mi (3.09 km2)
 • Water0.08 sq mi (0.21 km2)
Elevation85 ft (26 m)
 • Total22,583
 • Density18,913.74/sq mi (7,302.64/km2)
Time zoneUTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST)UTC−4 (Eastern)
ZIP Code
Area code401
FIPS code44-14140[4]
GNIS feature ID1218931[2]

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[5] and most densely populated city in the smallest state, and the 23rd 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 second, behind the Massachusetts city of Somerville, an inner suburb of Boston). The city takes its name from a waterfall on the Blackstone River.

Central Falls went into receivership in May 2010,[6] then filed for bankruptcy on August 1, 2011.[7][8] After cutting jobs and services, it came out of bankruptcy in September 2012.[9]


Before Europeans arrived, the area was home to Nipmuc, Wampanoag and Narragansett peoples.

Broad Street c. 1908
U.S. Cotton Co. c. 1910

Central Falls has historic significance as 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 Christian Wampanoag Indians) were pursuing them. Nearly all those ambushed were killed, including nine taken prisoner and later tortured to death at nearby Cumberland, Rhode Island. A stone memorial marks the mass grave at the site known as "Nine Men's Misery".[10]

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

In 1824, Jenks suggested the name Central Falls, thus giving the village its permanent name. Central Falls was incorporated as a town in 1730.

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 rise 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 nation's most densely populated city.

In 1922, it's textile mills were temporarily shutdown by the New England Textile Strike over an attempted wage cut and hours increase.[11][12]

In recent decades, a large number of Hispanic immigrants have resided in Central Falls. Central Falls has historically 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).[5]

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


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[3]

2020 census[edit]

The 2020 United States census counted 22,583 people, 7,700 households, and 4,315 families in Central Falls. The population density was 18,913.7 per square mile (7,302.6/km2). There were 8,191 housing units at an average density of 6,860.1 per square mile (2,648.7/km2).[13][14] The racial makeup was 27.93% (6,308) white or European American (18.36% non-Hispanic white), 7.47% (1,687) black or African-American, 2.32% (523) Native American or Alaska Native, 0.59% (134) Asian, 0.08% (17) Pacific Islander or Native Hawaiian, 39.14% (8,840) from other races, and 22.47% (5,074) from two or more races.[15] Hispanic or Latino of any race was 65.32% (14,752) of the population.[16]

Of the 7,700 households, 43.0% had children under the age of 18; 31.9% were married couples living together; 36.2% had a female householder with no spouse or partner present. 26.4% of households consisted of individuals and 8.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older.[13] The average household size was 3.1 and the average family size was 3.7.[17] The percent of those with a bachelor’s degree or higher was estimated to be 5.2% of the population.[18]

28.4% of the population was under the age of 18, 10.9% from 18 to 24, 30.7% from 25 to 44, 21.2% from 45 to 64, and 8.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.4 years. For every 100 females, the population had 97.4 males.[13] For every 100 females ages 18 and older, there were 98.8 males.[13]

The 2016-2020 5-year American Community Survey estimates show that the median household income was $34,689 (with a margin of error of +/- $2,947) and the median family income was $36,928 (+/- $4,820). Males had a median income of $24,390 (+/- $2,861) versus $21,893 (+/- $3,074) for females.[19] The median income for those above 16 years old was $23,205 (+/- $2,867).[20] Approximately, 23.7% of families and 29.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 39.4% of those under the age of 18 and 17.8% of those ages 65 or over.[21][22]

2010 census[edit]

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.[23]

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.[24]

2000 census[edit]

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 inhabitants per square mile (6,043.3/km2). There were 7,270 housing units at an average density of 6,011.7 per square mile (2,321.1/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.


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 superintendent 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.[25] 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 reapply for their jobs.[26] The Obama administration sided with the school board. In May 2010, the teachers were rehired when they agreed to work the extra time required.[27]

As of the 2000 U.S. census, 5.9% of Central Falls residents 25 and older have a bachelor's or advanced college degree.[28]

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


Central Falls City Hall

In the Rhode Island Senate, Central Falls is in the 16th District, represented by Democrat Jonathan Acosta. At the federal level, Central Falls is a part of Rhode Island's 1st congressional district, represented by Democrat David N. Cicilline.

The city has a mayor-council government led by Mayor Maria Rivera. The city council consists of five wards and is represented by Jonathan Acosta, Robert Ferri, Hugo Figueroa, Franklin Solano, and Jessica Vega.[29]

The Pawtucket Water Supply Board owns and operates the water system.[30]


On April 25, 2010, the Providence Journal Bulletin ran an article detailing rampant fraud and corruption by Mayor Charles D. Moreau, outlining no-bid contracts and kickbacks from a high school friend, Michael G. Bouthillette, who was granted almost $2 million in overpriced property boarding fees. The article further states that Bouthillette gave him a $6,875 furnace for his home for only $6,000, which Moreau said he paid in cash. Bouthillette was a donor to Moreau's multiple reelection campaigns. These allegations and others are being investigated by the Rhode Island State Police.[31]

Central Falls's government's financial straits worsened in the 2000s as the state cut money to cities and towns, and pensions and pensioner health insurance for city employees accumulated to the extent that the city government declared insolvency in May 2010 and went into receivership.[32] On August 1, 2011, Central Falls filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 9, Title 11 of the United States Code. It made the filing as it grappled with an $80 million unfunded pension and retiree health benefit liability that was over five times its annual budget of $17 million.[needs update]

Presidential Election Voting[edit]

Like most other majority-minority urban municipalities, Central Falls is overwhelmingly Democratic in presidential elections. No Republican has come remotely close to winning the city in over three decades, during which time voters have consistently backed Democratic nominees with lopsided majorities. In 2020, however, Donald Trump won a massive increase in the vote, mirroring his performance in other majority-Hispanic areas. Despite this, Joe Biden still won by an overwhelming percentage.

Central Falls city vote
by party in presidential elections
Year GOP DEM Others
2020 26.05% 1,113 71.93% 3,073 2.02% 86
2016 15.51% 657 80.12% 3,394 4.37% 185
2012 12.89% 512 85.87% 3,410 1.23% 49
2008 16.97% 661 81.95% 3,191 1.08% 42
2004 23.05% 807 75.61% 2,647 1.34% 47
2000 17.57% 611 79.07% 2,750 3.36% 117
1996 13.68% 486 76.75% 2,727 9.57% 340
1992 23.39% 955 55.57% 2,269 21.04% 859
1988 33.36% 1,493 66.24% 2,964 0.40% 18

National historic places in Central Falls[edit]

Notable people[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "ArcGIS REST Services Directory". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  2. ^ a b U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: Central Falls, Rhode Island
  3. ^ a b "Census Population API". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved October 12, 2022.
  4. ^ "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. ^ a b "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  6. ^ Tucker, Eric (May 20, 2010). "R.I. court names receiver for struggling Central Falls". Associated Press. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
  7. ^ "Central Falls, Rhode Island Chapter 9 Voluntary Petition" (PDF). PacerMonitor. Retrieved June 22, 2016.
  8. ^ "Central Falls, Rhode Island Files Chapter 9 Petition". Chapter11Cases.com. August 1, 2011. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
  9. ^ "Bankruptcy saves tiny Rhode Island city, but leaves scars". Reuters. September 4, 2012.
  10. ^ "History - City of Central Falls". www.centralfallsri.gov. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  11. ^ E. Tilden, Leonard (1923). "New England Textile Strike". Monthly Labor Review. 16 (5): 14 (pdf, pg. 3). JSTOR 41828627 – via JSTOR.
  12. ^ Foner, Philip Sheldon; Foner, Philip Sheldon (January 1, 1991). History of the labor movement in the United States. 9: The T.U.E.L. to the end of the Gompers era / by Philip S. Foner. New York: Intl Publ. pp. 19–31. ISBN 978-0-7178-0674-4.
  13. ^ a b c d "US Census Bureau, Table DP1: PROFILE OF GENERAL POPULATION AND HOUSING CHARACTERISTICS". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  14. ^ "Gazetteer Files". Census.gov. Retrieved December 30, 2023.
  15. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table P1: RACE". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  16. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table P2: HISPANIC OR LATINO, AND NOT HISPANIC OR LATINO BY RACE". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  17. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table S1101: HOUSEHOLDS AND FAMILIES". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  18. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table S1501: EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  19. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table S1903: MEDIAN INCOME IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS (IN 2020 INFLATION-ADJUSTED DOLLARS)". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  20. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table S2001: EARNINGS IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS (IN 2020 INFLATION-ADJUSTED DOLLARS)". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  21. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table S1701: POVERTY STATUS IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  22. ^ "US Census Bureau, Table S1702: POVERTY STATUS IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS OF FAMILIES". data.census.gov. Retrieved December 29, 2023.
  23. ^ "American FactFinder - Results". Retrieved March 29, 2020.[dead link]
  24. ^ "Rhode Island City & Town Income". Archived from the original on August 14, 2018. Retrieved August 15, 2018.
  25. ^ The Washington Post https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/02/24/AR2010022402092.html. {{cite news}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)[dead link]
  26. ^ "RI teachers union sues after mass firings". Fox News. April 28, 2010. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  27. ^ Tucker, Eric (May 18, 2010). "Fired teachers OK deal to get jobs back". Newspaper Archive. Heritage Microfilm, Inc. Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  28. ^ "ePodunk". www.epodunk.com. Archived from the original on March 28, 2014. Retrieved February 24, 2010.
  29. ^ "Elected Officials". City of Central Falls. Retrieved January 17, 2020.
  30. ^ "System Overview". The Pawtucket Water Supply Board. Archived from the original on December 29, 2021. Retrieved December 29, 2021.
  31. ^ Stanton, Mike; Malinowski, W. Zachary (April 25, 2010). "Boarding up Central Falls: Mayor Awards Lucrative Work to Friend". Providence Journal Bulletin. Archived from the original on April 27, 2010. Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  32. ^ "providencejournal.com: Local & World News, Sports & Entertainment in Providence, RI". providencejournal.com.
  33. ^ "Rhode Island Board of Elections: Previous Election Results". Archived from the original on August 14, 2018. Retrieved August 15, 2018.

External links[edit]