2015 Most Endangered Properties List
1. Atlantic Mills (1863)
2. Broad Street Synagogue (1910)
3. Cranston Street Armory (1907)
4. Grace Church Cemetery & Cottage (1834)
5. Esek Hopkins House (1756)
6. Former RIDOT Headquarters and Garage (1927)
7. Sheffield Smith House (1855)
8. St. Teresa of Avila Church (1883)
9. Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House (1867)
10. Westminster Congregational Church (1901)
Atlantic Mills (1863)
100 Manton Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015
The Atlantic Mills complex historically includes a collection of buildings on Manton Avenue with its original power source, the Woonasquatucket River, running behind it. One of Providence’s most highly visible and visually distinctive mills, it features almost-twin circular-plan stair towers topped with robust balustrades, high ribbed domes, and tall lanterns (one now missing). Otherwise utilitarian in design, a mill typically achieved architectural distinction through the ornamentation of its most prominent feature, the tower on its façade. Although the mill structure is being utilized, the towers are falling into a state of disrepair.
The mill’s eastern section, designed by Clifton A. Hall, was built in 1863 for the production of worsted cloth to supplement the original 1851 mill (long since destroyed); the nearly identical western section followed in 1882. Stretching west along Manton Avenue are small workers’ houses, originally fifty-seven in all—a remaining example of company-built housing in Providence. By the late 1880s, with 2100 workers, this was the largest textile mill in Providence. It continued to manufacture textiles until 1953.
After difficulties competing with modern textile facilities in post-World War II New England, several small industries and businesses were housed in the space. Today, the former mill complex is used as commercial space, including a furniture store and carpet warehouse. Plagued by neglect, lack of maintenance, fire hazards and flood damage, Atlantic Mills is at risk. The towers, which serve as the distinctive “face” of the mill, are in the most danger.
PPS has worked with the owners and managers of Atlantic Mills in the past, and organized a public tour of the site in 2014. We look forward to exploring new opportunities in the coming year as the preservation community advocates for the extension of the State Historic Tax Credit program.
Broad Street Synagogue (1910-1911),
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2010, 2014, 2015
688 Broad Street
Listed on the National Register in 1988, the Broad Street Synagogue (also known as Temple Beth El and Shaare Zedek Synagogue) was constructed in 1910-11 by the architects Banning and Thornton as the new home of the Congregation Sons of Israel and David. The building is a two-story Classical Revival building of Roman brick and terra cotta, set on a high basement of rusticated brick with concrete underpinnings. A low two-story, flat-roof brick and concrete block addition attached to the north side of the synagogue was built in 1958.
The congregation decided to build a new temple on the East Side during the 1940s as the population around Temple Beth El was no longer the German Jewish community it had once been. In 1954, Temple Beth El was sold to the new Congregation Shaare Zedek, which formed out of five smaller Orthodox groups in the neighborhood. Interior changes were made to reflect the congregation’s Orthodox style of worship. Over the years, the Jewish population around the former Temple Beth El sharply declined. In 2004, the congregation could not get the 10 men required for minyan at Rosh Hashanah. In 2006, the temple was officially closed and “desanctified”. On June 11, 2006, Shaare Zedek merged with Congregation Beth Sholom on Camp Street. As part of the merger, Beth Sholom received ownership of Temple Beth El.
In the past three years, a group of students hasinitiated a number of fundraising efforts to revitalize the building called the Broad Street Synagogue Revitalization Project. These committed volunteers have partnered recently with the Rhode Island Historical Society to conduct oral histories with congregants who worshipped in the building, and worked with the Providence Revolving Fund to secure funding to stabilize the roof. In the past year, a new owner made significant progress addressing the building’s most pressing issues, but the property is again for sale with an uncertain future.
Cranston Street Armory (1907)
310 Cranston Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2015
The Cranston Street Armory was constructed in 1907 to house the Rhode Island National Guard, designed by the architectural firm of William R. Walker and Sons. The castle-like structure is made of yellow brick, copper flashing, and is topped with a slate roof. The building itself became a defining feature of the neighborhood and many local functions were held there.
Unfortunately, the building was vacated by the National Guard in 1996 due to rising upkeep costs and the need for upgrades. The property has remained largely underutilized since then. While different plans have been proposed regarding what to do with the property, no project moved forward.
In 2014, the State of Rhode Island commissioned a feasibility study to determine sustainable and appropriate uses for the building, which is ongoing. In early 2015, Mayor Jorge Elorza drew additional attention to the building by hosting his inaugural gala inside of the Armory.
Grace Church Cemetery and Cottage (1834)
10 Elmwood Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2014, 2015
Located at the junction of Broad Street and Elmwood Avenue, Grace Church Cemetery has served as a gateway to South Providence for over 150 years. Grace Episcopal Church originally purchased 4 acres for use as a burial ground at the intersection in 1834, which eventually expanded to a 9-acre triangular parcel by 1843. Among the 8,500 burials are Nehemiah R. Knight (1780 - 1854), Rhode Island Governor and, later, Senator, Senator Albert Collins Greene (1791 - 1863), and Episcopal Bishop John P. K. Henshaw (1792 - 1852). Around 1860, the Cemetery caretaker’s cottage was constructed in the Gothic Revival style promoted by A.J. Downing in The Architecture of Country Houses.
Today, the Cemetery is part of the Trinity Square Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Long a focus of community activity, the caretaker’s cottage was meticulously restored by the Elmwood Foundation (now Community Works RI) in 1982. The cottage was restored again in 2008 in collaboration with the Providence Revolving Fund, and underwent extensive structural repairs after a car collided with the building’s foundation in 2010.
Although Grace Church Cemetery is an active burial ground, the number of interments has fallen in recent decades, greatly reducing funds available to maintain the property. Seasonal clean ups have been organized by Grace Church and the community, and, over the past year, Grace Church, Stop Wasting Abandoned Property (SWAP), and local stakeholders have met regularly to address security concerns and re-activate the Cemetery grounds. Spearheaded by SWAP, initiatives to repair fencing and explore lighting options are underway. Grace Church and SWAP are also working together to bring to fruition a long-standing plan to transfer ownership of the Cemetery to a separate non-profit called the Gateway Cemetery Company that was created for that purpose in 2001, in the hopes of improving fundraising opportunities and deepening community involvement.
Esek Hopkins House (1756)
97 Admiral Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1995, 2011, 2015
While still in its infancy, the American Navy had the important task of fending off the British Navy, which at that time was the strongest in the world. Commanding the American forces was Admiral Esek Hopkins, whose home still remains intact on 97 Admiral Street.
Individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the 7-acre Esek Hopkins Homestead is all that remains of the original 200-acre property. The house, facing southwest onto Admiral Street, consists of three distinct sections. The main and oldest section of the residence dates from 1756 when it was built by Hopkins himself. This structure consists of a two-story, gable house of a one-room, side hall plan. An 1802 addition included a 1½-story, gambrel roof structure, three bays wide with a modified five-room plan. A second renovation added a long, one-story gable roof ell at the rear of the main house. A shingled portion of this ell contrasts with the otherwise clapboarded house.
In 1908 the Hopkins family transferred ownership of his 1756 home and its furnishings to the City of Providence under the condition that the property would be maintained as a public park. Used for any other purpose, the property would return to the Hopkins heirs. Since that time the City's Parks Department has faced the challenge of maintaining this highly significant house with very limited funds.
Former RIDOT Headquarters and Garage (1927)
30 Arline Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014, 2015
A two-story Art Deco building with a flat roof and pier-and-spandrel construction, the former headquarters for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is one of the only examples of the machine aesthetic in the architecture of Smith Hill. It was one of the first modernist buildings erected by the State of Rhode Island.
The building was acquired by the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) for their Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) project. Plans were in place to have the building demolished until the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission determined that the building would be eligible for a National Register listing through a Consensus Determination of Eligibility in November 2006. Terms of the sale required the current owner to restore and maintain the Art Deco building, and there were reportedly plans to restore the building to garage a fleet of trucks, but the building remains in disrepair and is being underutilized as a warehouse. No plans to begin work on the building have been submitted despite its inclusion on the 2008, 2009 and 2012 Most Endangered Properties List.
The building is now owned by Quality Food Company, a family owned food distributor that has operated out of Smith Hill for over 75 years. With the possibility of an extended State Historic Tax Credit program, PPS hopes to continue discussion started in 2006 and explore rehabilitation options with the Providence-based company.
Sheffield Smith House
334 Smith Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2015
One of the oldest houses in this section of Smith Hill, the Sheffield Smith House was constructed by a quarryman in 1855. With a five-bay façade and ornate central-entrance, the 2 ½ story building has an impressive presence on the streetscape. Italianate detailing includes the hooded front door flanked by heavy brackets and a round-arch central window. The façade also features substantial two-story pilasters dividing the bays, with clustered brackets serving as capitals.
Foreclosed in 2007, the house has sat boarded-up and vacant for years, now owned by a Texas-based bank. PPS hopes this listing will attract attention and spur appropriate redevelopment for the property.
St. Teresa of Avila Church (1883)
275 Manton Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2014, 2015
Constructed in the 1880s, St. Teresa of Avila Church was built during a time when new ethnic groups were adding to the Roman Catholic population in Providence. This demographic shift was manifested in the move away from traditional Gothic architecture that used rugged stone construction in Roman Catholic churches.
The red brick St. Teresa of Avila Church features classical details and a large rose window above the Manton Street entrance. Built to serve a growing population in one of the most highly industrialized parts of the city, the church closed doors in 2009 due to a declining congregation. In recent months, local community developers and politicians have expressed interest in converting the site into an expanded branch for of the Providence community libraries.
Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House (1867)
PPS Most Endangered: 2010, 2012, 2015
Built in a very elaborate Italianate Style, this house is often referred to as the “Wedding Cake House” as it is Providence’s consummate “gingerbread” house. The Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House was probably built and designed in 1867 by Broadway resident Perez Mason. Built for John Kendrick, a manufacturer of loom harnesses, important to 19th-century textile production, it became the home of buttonhook manufacturer and street-railway tycoon George W. Prentice in the early 1880s.
Anna Tirocchi and Laura Tirocchi Cella operated A. & L. Tirocchi, a dress making shop, at 514 Broadway from 1915 to 1947, catering to wealthy clients, many of whom were wives and daughters of the newly successful industrialists from Providence and Fall River. Their first shop was located in the Butler Exchange Building on Westminster Street from 1911 to 1915. In 1915, Laura married and Anna purchased the house on Broadway, at which time they had already developed their wealthy clientele.
The shop and its owners bridged three socio-cultural groups: their employees (from southern Italy), themselves (from near Rome), and their powerful and wealthy clients. The shop was located on the second and third floors of the house. The third floor served as the workshop where the “girls,” as they were called, fabricated, decorated, beaded, altered, and tailored the clothing to the desires of the clientele. A. & L. Tirocchi employed women from thriving Italian American families. For these young women, the sewing rooms were “safe areas” where women were sheltered from exploitation and bad behavior and were under the supervision of two female members of their own community.
When Anna Tirocchi died in 1947, Laura Tirocchi Cella wrapped all the shop’s records in tissue paper and carefully put them away. These were not disturbed until 1989 when curators from the RISD Museum were invited by Laura’s son, Dr. Louis J. Cella Jr., inheritor of the house, to make their choice of objects for the Museum. When curators entered the house, it was a time capsule from the 1920s and 1930s, as everything from the shop’s operation lay untouched for over 40 years. Eighteen cubic feet of archival materials were inventoried and acquired by RISD, and two thousand additional objects were given to the University of Rhode Island. Such complete documentation of an historical dressmaking business exists nowhere else in the United States. The Tirocchi collection is an unparalleled resource for understanding many wide-ranging historical issues, including Italian immigration, women as workers and consumers, and the transition from hand production of garments to ready-to-wear clothing.
For a number of years the house was owned by a community development group, yet they did not have the adequate funds to rehabilitate the property and it continued to deteriorate. Fortunately, in 2017 the house was sold to The Dirt Palace, a feminist arts group that has been operating for 17 years in Olneyville. The art group has funds in place and plans to move forward to reuse the building as an artist-in-residence program.
Westminster Congregational Church (1901)
126 Adelaide Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2014, 2015
This South Providence church was originally built by the Westminster Congregational Society in 1901, but has gone through multiple parish changes. In 1959, the property was sold to the Friendship United Methodist Church, a Swedish group founded in South Providence. When this congregation dissolved in 1977, the Hood Memorial Church (A.M.E) purchased the building.
A.M.E. still owns the property, although the congregation relocated over two years ago and the building has rapidly declined. The roof is beginning to fail along with the building’s exterior stone walls.