2016 Most Endangered Properties List
- Atlantic Mills, 100 Manton Avenue (1863)
- Bomes Theatre, 1017 Broad Street (1921)
- Cranston Street Armory, 315 Cranston Street (1907)
- Historic Jewelry District Buildings
- Barstow Stove Company (known as Tops Electric Company), 120 Point Street (c. 1849)
- Ward Baking Company Administration Building, 145 Globe Street (1908-1956)
- Historic Middle School Buildings
- Gilbert Stuart Middle School, 188 Princeton Avenue (c. 1930)
- Roger Williams Middle School, 278 Thurbers Avenue (1932)
- Nathanael Greene Middle School, 721 Chalkstone Avenue (1929)
- Historic Religious Buildings
- Broad Street Synagogue, 688 Broad Street (1910)
- Congregation of the Sons of Jacob, 24 Douglas Avenue (1905-1912, 1920)
- United Presbyterian Church, 619 Chalkstone Avenue (1895)
- Industrial Trust Building, 111 Westminster Street (1928)
- Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House, 514 Broadway (1867)
- Meader Street School, 20 Almy Street (1891)
- Rhode Island Hospital Southwest Pavilion, 593 Eddy Street (1900)
- Sheffield Smith House, 334 Smith Street (1855)
Check out the video below for spectacular views of this year's properties!
Video courtesy of Scott Palmer at skybUZZ.
Atlantic Mills (1863)
100 Manton Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017
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.
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. However, plagued by neglect, lack of maintenance, fire hazards and most recently flood damage, the Atlantic Mills is at risk. The towers, which serve as the distinctive “face” of the mill, are falling into a state of disrepair. According to industrial historian Patrick Malone, Ph.D. of Brown University, the complex is regarded as one of the three or four most important mills in the United States; loss of the towers would be devastating to the overall integrity of this complex. Today, the former mill complex serves as the location for the Olneyville Neighborhood Association and an indoor flea market. PPS has worked with the owners and managers of Atlantic Mills in the past, and hopes to explore new opportunities in the coming year.
Bomes Theatre (1921)
1017 Broad Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017
The Bomes Theatre is a two-story, Beaux Arts-style, flat-roof, brick structure with stone trim. It is embellished with elaborate terra cotta trim and detailed moldings on the façade. Architectural embellishments include modillion blocks, dentils, a projecting cornice, carved shells, and stylized designs. A sign reading ‘Bomes Theater’ is centered at the roof line. Plywood now obscures the original fenestration.
Following its use as a theatre, the Bomes building was occupied by Jason’s furniture. The property is currently owned by the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA). It is also part of the city-wide Industrial and Commercial Building District (ICBD), a thematic, scattered-site local historic district. Much opportunity exists for rehabilitation efforts that would greatly enliven the community’s art, theatre, and music culture. This theatre could once again thrive as a premiere arts venue on the south side of Providence.
A community meeting hosted by the City of Providence in late 2013 openly discussed the issues and preservation options for building. PPS hope to renew a discussion of problem-solving by engaging neighborhood stakeholders, determining preservation priorities with the PRA, and exploring realistic options for the building’s rehabilitation.
Cranston Street Armory (1907)
310 Cranston Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 1996-2000, 2003, 2014, 2015, 2016
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 2015, the State’s Department of Administration began a “Structural Repairs Project – Phase I” which will focus on the Parade Street tower. According to wbna.org, “The work includes repointing masonry, repairs of decorative copper work, installing new flashing, and installing a new roof on the west turret. Missing or broken windows on the building will also be boarded up during the work.” WBNA and PPS will continue to advocate for continued and reliable funding until all major exterior repairs are completed.
Historic Jewelry District Buildings
Barstow Stove Company (known as Tops Electric Company) (c. 1849)
120 Point Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2016, 2017
The Barstow Stove Company was founded by Amos Chaffee Barstow in 1836 and expanded to the complex on Point Street in 1849. Today three buildings remain on the site: a four-and-one-half-story brick building with a jerkinhead gable roof, a three-story brick building with a flat roof, and the original 1849 building. The oldest building on the site (west) dates back to 1849 and features a monitor roof, granite window lintels, and a corbelled brick cornice.
By 1859, the company had 200 employees and manufactured 50 different kinds of stoves and furnaces. The company eventually acquired the competing Spicer Stove Company, making Barstow the only stove foundry in Providence, and the largest in New England. The complex included two molding rooms, a flask storage building, a room for stoves, storage areas for up to 5000 stoves, and pattern storage.
Barstow began producing gas stoves in the 1820s to keep up with contemporary technology, but could not compete and went out of business in the 1930s. For around ten years the plant was occupied by the Home Service Company, which did household repairs. Starting in 1974, Tops Electric Company operated out of the complex. Currently, a neon sign reading: “TOPS” is prominently displayed on the building’s west elevation. In 2015, the building complex was sold and it continues to sits underutilized as the new owners are evaluating potential uses and redevelopment scenarios.
Ward Baking Company Administration Building (1908-1956)
145 Globe Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2012, 2014, 2016
This two-story, brick, flat-roof building originally featured numerous ells constructed between 1908 and 1956. The original complex was bounded by Eddy Street, Globe Street, and Manchester Street (now known as Marengo Street). All that remains is a two-story section of the complex at the corner of Eddy and Marengo. The entrance is flanked by sidelights and set below several bands of brick corbelling. This two-story block was part of the original building and appears on the 1908 Sanborn map. The blonde brick structure features projecting brick piers between each bay, topped with stone trim. Fenestration is comprised of rectangular openings with a combination of glass block and boarded up windows.
According to a combination of both maps and business directories, the Ward Baking Company building was constructed between 1901 and 1908. Between 1908 and 1918 small additions were built to the rear of the building. By 1926, an addition built on the Eddy Street side of the building, adding an additional 6,432 square feet. Between 1937 and 1956 a large section for storage was added to the rear of the building.
The Ward Baking Company remained at this location through the late 1970s. After being left vacant in the early 1980s, Retailer’s Food Center Wholesale took over the site between 1985 and 1988. Tara Manufacturing Co. and Ideal Rack Co. were also housed there around 1988, sharing the space with Wholesale Foods. By 1993 the building was once again left vacant.
In 2011, the Ward Baking Company Administration Building was slated for demolition along with the rest of the complex. The Historic District Commission encouraged the owners to find a solution that would save the building. Since that time, the building was left exposed and has changed owners at least twice. In September, 2015, Lifespan purchased the property with no immediate plans for its use. PPS will continue to advocate for the building to be integrated into any redevelopment plans.
Historic Middle School Buildings
Children are Providence’s most important resources and it is critical that the schools they use daily are both safe and inspiring. Unfortunately, many of Providence’s public schools are in dire need of physical improvement, which has been shown to impact learning. But it is possible to find solutions that are financially and environmentally sustainable. Nathan Bishop Middle School was slated for demolition in 2006 because of its poor physical condition. Opposition by neighborhood residents and PPS led to a reuse study that led to an award-winning restoration that cost less than replacement. Each of the schools below needs that kind of neighborhood advocacy and city leadership to deliver the kind of schools our children deserve.
Gilbert Stuart Middle School (c. 1930)
188 Princeton Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2016
story included photographs that demonstrate the extremely poor conditions at the school.The Gilbert Stuart School is a public school in the West End of Providence. The Greek Revival style school was originally designed as a high school but over the years it has been used as an elementary school and now currently a middle school serving grades 6 to 8. The school has served neighborhood students and families for over 80 years, yet over the years it has suffered from consistent neglect and lack of upkeep. The Gilbert Stuart School is in dire need of major upgrades and repairs in order to continue servicing students and their families. The building is faced with water damage, poor air quality, inefficient heating, and an outdated plumbing system that has made the water unsafe to drink. A 2014 RI Future
Roger Williams Middle School (1932)
278 Thurbers Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2016
The Roger Williams Middle School is a 4-story brick and limestone public school built in 1932 in Lower South Providence. The Georgian Revival style building features a flat roof and a colossal portico. The Roger Williams Middle School was designed by architects through the Office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings and is a prime example of early 20th century institutional architecture in Providence. Fidelity employees regularly contribute hundreds of hours each year to projects that are suitable, but major work is required. While the school has a new digital media laboratory, it suffers from problems resulting from a long-leaky roof (currently being replaced) and lack of modern fire suppression systems. Plaster crumbles from walls and ceilings. The auditorium, although serving as a classroom for this overcrowded school, needs repairs to its historic seats, plaster repairs to walls and ceilings, and restoration of its magnificent stage area. Curtains were removed due to fire code issues, lighting hardly works and the catwalk may not be safe for use, so what was once a major asset is now a liability.
Nathanael Greene Middle School (1932)
721 Chalkstone Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2016
The Nathanael Greene Middle School is a 3-story public school built in 1929 in the Elmhurst neighborhood of Providence. The yellow brick Tudor Gothic style building features an entrance pavilion flanked by octagonal turrets. This school was one of many Providence public school buildings built in the 1920s and 1930s, designed by the architects of the Office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings. As of this writing, PPS has not investigated the specific issues faced by Nathanael Greene.
Historic Religious Buildings
Broad Street Synagogue (1910-1911)
688 Broad Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016
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 has initiated 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 addressed the building’s most pressing issues, installing a temporary roof and repairing floors and ceilings. In 2015, the building was sold again; the new owner is planning significant renovations starting the spring.
Congregation of the Sons of Jacob (1905-1912, 1920)
24 Douglas Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2016
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1989, the Sons of Jacob Synagogue is the last remaining symbol of the once large Jewish community once based in the Smith Hill neighborhood of Providence. The two story brick structure was built in two stages starting in 1906 and completed in 1922. Since its completion, the building has remained largely unaltered.
The interior of the synagogue features ornate stained glass windows and murals. Although the building is still used regularly for worship, the congregation’s numbers have declined. The roof has been secured, but damage to interior plaster needs repair, as do the windows. PPS is working with stakeholders to undertake long-range planning and to identify potential funding sources.
United Presbyterian Church (1895)
619 Chalkstone Avenue
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2014, 2016
A beautiful brick and brownstone Romanesque church with a corner tower and arcaded belfry, the former United Presbyterian Church was built in the late nineteenth century to serve a growing population of immigrants from Nova Scotia. The church was active in the Smith Hill community into the 1970s. Over the past three decades, the building has served a number of other congregations. While the building played a historic role in the neighborhood’s cultural landscape, the church has remained largely unoccupied for years. The current owner is seeking innovative redevelopment ideas to bring the building back to a useful purpose for the neighborhood.
Industrial Trust Building (1928)
111 Westminster Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2014, 2016, 2017
One of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in the region, the Indiana-limestone clad Industrial Trust Company Building rises over 420 feet above the Kennedy Plaza, capped by a 4-story square lantern. The Art Deco skyscraper features streamlined classical motifs above the second story, and set-back pyramidal massing required by an early version of the Providence Zoning Ordinance. Upon the opening of the building in 1928, Providence Magazine commented that the Industrial Trust “has already taken a place in the heart and life of the community.”
The quickly expanding Industrial Trust Company eventually became Fleet Bank, before finally merging with Bank of America in the early 2000s. High Rock Development purchased the building in 2008, and Bank of America remained as the sole tenant until their lease expired in early 2013.
Based on the building’s age and unique configuration, its renovation is not likely feasible without public assistance. The building’s owners, High Rock, last proposed converting the building to apartments in 2013 with $39 million in state aid but this proposal fell through. As of 2016, several Providence business and community leaders have organized to push for state funding to rehabilitate the building which is currently valued at $15.4 million. Furthermore, in 2016 PPS began partnering with the newly formed Save Superman RI group to hold public tours inside the building, which have been widely popular.
The iconic building’s vacancy in the heart of Downtown Providence may be the most critical development challenge currently facing any historic building in Providence. PPS will continue to offer expertise in preservation planning and development to the building owner and his development team, to the City of Providence, and to the State of Rhode Island and its agents in the coming year.
Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House (1867)
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2010, 2012, 2015, 2016
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.
Meader Street School (1891)
20 Almy Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2016
The Meader Street School is a 2-story cross gable roof Queen Anne primary school in the Federal Hill neighborhood of Providence. The school is one of the last remaining wooden 4-room schools that still exist in Providence today. The school features a tall central brick chimney stack, ample windows, and a platform at the crest of the roof where the school belfry used to be. It is owned by the City’s Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA).
A neighborhood blight for several years, the West Broadway Neighborhood Association has attempted to purchase it for several years. Earlier this year, WBNA secured state historic tax credits. They will work with the Providence Revolving Fund and the PRA to transfer the property to redevelopment team for conversion to affordable and market rate rental housing.
Rhode Island Hospital Southwest Pavilion (1900)
593 Eddy Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2010, 2016
This building is part of the original campus of Rhode Island Hospital and was built by architects Stone, Carpenter and Willson in 1900. The Southwest Pavilion is one of the only survivors from the original campus and its loss would be devastating to the hospital’s sense of history. The Pavilion is hemmed in by HVAC gear and modern construction, such as the Ambulatory Patient Center that was built in 1973.
Opened on May 2, 1900, the Southwest Pavilion cost $175,000 and contained a children’s ward, playroom and various wards and departments for female patients. Most significantly, it was home to the first well-equipped, spacious pathology laboratory specifically designed for the purpose.
After completion of the new Main Building for RI Hospital in 1995, the original hospital building which it abutted was demolished. Development around the Southwest Pavilion have rendered it difficult to use and nearly obscured from the public’s view. In 2006 and 2015, RIH submitted an application for Institutional Master Plan Amendment to allow demolition of the building. It has been denied in both instances. An appeal will be heard by the Zoning Board of Review in February, 2015, which may reverse the decision of the City Plan Commission. PPS has submitted a proposal for a charrette to possibly develop alternate uses that would preserve the building at a cost to the hospital lower than they have previously projected. Charrettes have previously been used to envision new uses for the Masonic Temple and Shepard’s Department Store.
Sheffield Smith House (1855)
334 Smith Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2015, 2016, 2017
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.
The house was foreclosed in 2007 and has sat boarded-up and vacant for years, first through ownership by a Texas-based bank and most recently by local investors. PPS hopes this listing will attract attention and spur appropriate redevelopment for the property.