Ah, Cranston…… Having grown up on the other side of the Bay in Bristol, the only times I ever visited Cranston as a child were to see my great Aunt Helen in her home on Belmont Road. Cranston seemed so far away. Who would ever have thought that I’d grow up to love this city of diverse people, delicious foods, and thriving traditions? It was with great excitement that I brought the girls on a tour of some of the highlights of Cranston and the neighboring town of West Warwick.
Due to some morning commitments, our journey started after lunch. Our first stop was the DeLuise Bakery on Oaklawn Avenue, because a tour of Cranston *needs* to include a stop at an Italian Bakery. Cranston has so many delicious bakeries to choose from, but since Deluise is celebrating its 80th year, it seemed like the right choice for the day, and the pastries did not disappoint. We had a very difficult time making decisions, and ended up with a variety of tasty sweets, which were devoured in record breaking time.
Feeling satisfied, we crossed over the town line into West Warwick to visit some mills. The girls know that my love of New England mills is similar to my love of castle and monastery ruins in Ireland, and they were very polite in accompanying me and not rolling their eyes too frequently. We parked at Riverpoint Park and walked along the Washington Secondary Trail bike path to see the Bradford Soap Works, which is a functioning mill along the Blackstone River. Bradford Soap Works has been in operation since 1876 and their customers include big names such as Aveeno, Biore, Clinique, Mrs. Myers, and Dove.
The Bradford Soap mill is quite an impressive building, and is one of the only working mills we’ve seen in our travels. We could smell the soap in the air from behind the factory and could see steam rising from the towers and see and hear the operations of the factory taking place. I could have stood there for a while, but it was time to move on, so we checked out the Royal Mills which has been turned into gorgeous living spaces and is located across the street from Bradford Soap Works, and then after pausing to take a picture at the New Haven Caboose that is on display in the area, we headed back to our car. We learned that West Warwick was on the main railroad corridor for New England, making it a very desirable place for mills and factories back in the day.
Our next stop was the West Warwick Riverwalk. I had been eyeing this area for a while as we had some solved-but-not-yet-found geocache puzzles along the Riverwalk. We parked at the Youth Center on Factory Street, and Tarynn & I headed down the trail while Aemilia & Aoife opted to sit outdoors and wait for us to return. I had low expectations for the Riverwalk, as I had read that it was overgrown and filled with litter. However, it turned out to be a beautiful trail along the Blackstone, and the plentiful blackberries along the way greatly delighted Tarynn. We ended up at a rushing waterfall behind the Royal Mills complex, and then returned along the path to our car, snacking on more berries as we walked.
Our final destination in West Warwick was Station Fire Memorial Park. This park was created in memory of the 100 people who died in a fire while attending a concert by the Band Great White on February 20, 2003. It feels like nearly everyone in Rhode Island knew someone who lost their life in that fire, and it was sobering to see the individual plaques in honor of each of the 100 concert goers who lost their lives that night. The park and memorial are beautiful, and while we were there, other people came to quietly and respectfully honor the victims as well.
Now it was time to head back to Cranston for dinner. Cranston is a food Mecca, and given the ethnic diversity of the population, there are all types of restaurants. We were looking for a place with outdoor seating, and we decided to head to La Casa on Laurel Hill Avenue for Guatemalan food. La Casa is the winner of the 2019 RI Food Fight’s People’s Choice Award for Best Tacos, and it is owned by a student I knew when he was at the middle school in which I taught. The food at La Casa is some of the most amazing Latin American food we’ve ever tasted, and we were all looking forward to dinner. Brian joined us for dinner and we ordered an assortment of tacos, nachos, fried yucca, and pupusa. The service was excellent, the restaurant was clean and we enjoyed our dinner immensely.
After dinner, Brian and Tarynn headed back home, while Aoife, Aemilia & I continued exploring Cranston. We drove down Webster Ave and turned on to Bailey Street to see the house that Papa grew up in, and then we headed over to Cranston Street to see the Governor Sprague Mansion and the Cranston Print Works, which printed fabric in Cranston until 2009.
Further down Cranston Street, we stopped at Itri Square which is dedicated to the immigrants from Itri, Italy who settled in Cranston. This area is also home to many outstanding Italian restaurants.
Across the street is the West Cranston World War II Memorial which honors those from West Cranston who lost their lives, including my grandfather, Arthur J. Schattle,who was killed in the Second Battle of the Bulge.
Next, we drove over to Meshanticut Lake for an after dinner walk. We saw a family of ducks and a cute little free library on our evening lakeside stroll.
Passing by Hugh B. Bain Middle School, Cranston High School East, and City Hall, we then headed over to Edgewood to take in the beautiful view at Stillhouse Cove Park.
Finally we visited the village of Pawtuxet, starting on the Cranston side and then crossing the bridge into Warwick. We found some historical markers relating to the events surrounding the burning of the Gaspee, and we also found another creatively decorated little free library in Pawtuxet Park. Heading back to our car, we heard music and laughter coming from the many Pawtuxet cafes and dining establishments, and we enjoyed the sparkle of the lights and the relaxed atmosphere of the village. Aside from our face coverings, it felt like a normal summer night…..almost.
Other places we've enjoyed in Cranston & West Warwick:
We are a family who loves to travel and explore. Covid-19 has changed our plans for summer 2020, but we are making the best out of the situation by exploring our beautiful home state of Rhode Island. During the summer of 2020, we are hoping to visit every town in Rhode Island. Thank you for joining us on our journey!