1995 Ten Most Endangered Properties
The America Street School (1904)
18 America Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1995
Building Type: Educational
The America Street School was lost in 1996.
The property had been underutilized and neglected for years, and it’s only function was a meeting place for the Veterans of Foreign Wars. Despite a lack of classroom space in Providence the building was seen as outdated and in a state of ill repair, which ultimately led to it’s demolition.
The Benjamin Dyer Block (1820)
119-219 Weybosset Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1995, 1996, 1997, 2010, 2011 (Providence National register District)
Building Type: Commercial
The Benjamin Dyer Block, built around 1820, was the work of carpenter-architect John Holden Greene. Originally built by Benjamin Dyer for his four daughters, four attached row houses of four and five bays each comprise this handsome, Federal-style, 200-foot-long, eighteen bay row. Each of the four entrances are recessed and set under a brownstone arch.
The 3½-story, stone-trimmed, brick structure is distinguished by its unique roof, the western half displays a hip roof with monitor from which rises a paneled balustrade, while the eastern half includes a mansard roof, the result of the 1882 renovation by then owners Thomas J. Stead and Salma Manton.
The first story of the building boasts nineteenth and twentieth century storefronts while double hung sash windows of brownstone surrounds line the second and third stories. Although the building has been heavily altered throughout its history, the Benjamin Dyer Block still remains one of the more readily identifiable remnants of the early 19th century development of this once residential neighborhood. Despite some renovations to the second floor of the building, the westernmost half of the block has serious structural conditions that could cause the entire façade to collapse.
Esek Hopkins House (1756)
97 Admiral Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1995, 2011
Building Type: Residential
Threat: Deffered Maintenance
The Esek Hopkins house is the home of the first American Admiral. While still in it’s 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 struggled with limited funds to maintain this highly significant house which was used as a museum until the 1970s.
Recently the house and the adjoining property have been threatened by local expansion. Neighboring businesses have shown interest in purchasing portions of the property for expansion purposes. Although such plans were rejected by the city of Providence, the property is still struggling to maintain itself. In 2008 combined efforts of Providence College and the city of Providence Parks Department a restoration project began, bringing some much needed work to the property.
The Gorham Manufacturing Complex
333 Adelaide Avenue
PPS Most Endangered: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997
Building Type: Commercial/ Manufacturing
The Gorham Mill Complex, which was listed on the Most Endangered Properties List four times, was lost in 1998.
It was once the center of operations for the world-famous Gorham Manufacturing Company, however it came to be owned by the State of Rhode Island once the company shut down. Despite attempts at repurposing the building was in an extreme state of disrepair and neglect that led to its demolition.
The Masonic Temple (1926)
5 Avenue of the Arts
PPS Most Endangered: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003
Building Type: Commercial
Threat: Abandonment/ Neglect/Vandalism
It would be no understatement to say that the Masonic Temple Building has been in danger ever since it was first built. Construction began on both the temple and adjoining Veterans Memorial Auditorium in 1926, but was prematurely halted in 1928 and never restarted due to the great depression.
In 1945, the state acquired both properties and completed construction of the auditorium, but neglected to complete the temple. The imposing neoclassical edifice then stood alongside the state house on Smith Hill for almost three-quarters of a century and had not once been occupied. Its copper roof stolen by scavengers, the interior of the building was exposed to the elements furthering the damage already done by decades of neglect. Despite the excess of damage the buildings structure, made of stone and steel had remained undamaged.
After spending more time on the Ten Most Endangered Properties list than any other structure, and undergoing consideration for many repurposing attempts that ultimately fell through, the Masonic Temple finally received the attention it deserved in late 2003 when Sage Hospitality Resources began talks with the state about transforming the building into a luxury hotel. Needless to say the state was more than happy to fill the long vacant building, and the building was transformed into the Renaissance Providence.
The Meeting Street Steps (Late 18th Century)
PPS Most Endangered: 1995
Building Type: Public
The Meeting Street Steps are an unusual feature in the College Hill National Historic Landmark District. These twenty granite steps were constructed to connect Meeting Street with Congdon Street and had for centuries provided a shortcut for residents, including Governor William Sprauge, who according to local tradition enjoyed traveling up and down the steps on horseback.
Prior to 1995, the city-owned steps stood in complete disrepair. Years of New England weather had positioned the steps out of alignment; paired with the lack of a hand rail the steps began to become more dangerous than beneficial.
The city’s lack of attention to the problem caused a wave of protest in the area as locals began demanding that something ought to be done. Following years of complaints from local residents plans to rebuild the steps were finally drawn up and carried out in 1999.
The Phenix Iron Foundry (1884)
110 Elm Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998
Building Type: Industrial
Threat: Differed Maintenance, Vacancy
The Phenix Iron Foundry, a rare stone industrial building dating from 1848 was once a prominent manufacturer in the Jewelry District, was listed on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List for five consecutive years. Due to years of deferred maintenance, neglect, and vacancy the structure's overall condition continues to worsen at a rapid rate; entire sections of the roof had collapsed causing severe damage to the interior and threatening its usability.
In 1998 developers took an interest in the building and saw an opportunity to revive the property to its once noble state. Unfortunately, the plans that the developers proposed involved the demolition of the adjacent buildings along with the buildings prominent smokestack. However, it did include preserving the main facility as well as making it useable as office space. Most recently the building was purchased by Brown University and is currently in use as their Office of Development.
Trinity United Methodist Church (1864)
389 Broad Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 1995
Building Type: Ecclesiastical
Threat: Differed Maintenance
The Trinity United Methodist church is a simple brick structure modeled after a blend of English Gothic and Romanesque parish church styles. The church was built by parishioner/architect Clifton A. Hall to feature a massive wooden frame corner tower.
The tower itself is of somewhat mixed style having a base with angled buttresses in the English Gothic style, but the drum bellow is octagonal and more Romanesque in design. The chancel was redesigned with more Gothic furnishings in 1949 by Arland A. Dirlam of Boston, Massachusetts, a prominent mid-twentieth century architect. The red brick parish house building (1915) is the only realized part of a Gothic Revival Church, and its adjacent parish-house auditorium gained significance as the first home of the Trinity Square Repertory Company.
The church and its adjoining properties were placed on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List due to lack of financial resources from the parish. This lack of resources led the properties to fall into a state of disrepair. The Providence Preservation Society put the parish in contact wit the Partners for Sacred Places, a national non-denominational preservation organization dedicated to the education and advocacy for the physical preservation of religious structures.
Although it is not clear what the current financial status of the parish is, the properties have undergone extensive repairs. It could be that the organizations the Providence Preservation Society placed them in contact with helped or tremendous community support provided the necessary financial aid. Regardless, the property is no longer in a state of disrepair.
What Cheer Laundry (1906)
93 Cranston Street, West End
PPS Most Endangered: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2007
Building Type: Commercial
Threat: Neglect/ Deterioation
What Cheer Laundry was lost in 2008.
In 1896, English immigrant William E. Louttit founded Louttit’s Home Hand Laundry. The small business grew and grew and moved to larger and larger facilities until finally purchasing two large brick buildings, previously What Cheer Steam Laundry, on Cranston Street in 1918. This complex, built in 1906, has a handsome Georgian Revival office block, with projecting pedimented entrance, as its frontispiece; the complex originally boasted over 280,000 square feet. By 1925, Louttit had grown to the largest laundry facility in Rhode Island with over 150 employees and sixteen outlets statewide. After ninety years of family ownership, the Louttit family sold its name and facility for 1.2 million dollars in 1985. Two years later the new owners, facing bankruptcy, closed the laundry works and auctioned the site. The building has since remained vacant.
The abandonment of this structure has led to its rapid deterioration. In response, PPS has included the Louttit Laundry on the Most Endangered List seven times since 1995 in an effort to attract a developer. The property sits prominently at the entrance to the Broadway-Armory Historic District; its restoration would further reactivate Hoyle Square and thus encourage further development along Cranston Street and the surrounding neighborhood. In 1998, a film studio executive expressed interest in developing the property into upscale apartments, giving hope to preservationists and neighbors. Still, the development proposal, like others before and since, fell through.
In 2001, a fire destroyed the rear half of the complex, thus greatly diminishing the potential of the structure for redevelopment. Preservation groups and local residents remain committed to the restoration of the Louttit Laundry, advocates for which recognize many viable options for its redevelopment as residential, commercial, or entertainment space. Ironically, the 2001 fire has increased available funding from statewide and national Brownfield redevelopment assistance funds, which would facilitate the cleanup of any on-site contaminants. In 2004 the building was listed on National Register of Historic Places, establishing its eligibility for Federal Tax Credits. The building is now property of the City of Providence and Stop Wasting Abandoned Property (SWAP) has the development rights. The Providence Historic District Commission has granted approval to demolish all but the first ten feet of the Cranston Street façade so that environmental remediation may take place. The city was reportedly investigating ways to remediate the environmental problems but the building continued to sit abandoned and deteriorate, until it was demolished in 2008.
William Dyer House (1844)
378 Pine Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1995, 1998
Building Type: Residential
Threat: Vacancy/ Neglect/Vandalism
Located at the front of the Pine Street National Register District this building was first listed on the Ten Most Endangered Properties list in 1996 due to it being both vacant and neglected.
It was feared that the condition of the house would allow it to fall victim to vandalism or arson. These fears were later realized when the building did fall prey to such acts.
Although the owner of the property continues to neglect the necessary repair work needed the PPS Revolving Fund hosted multiple fundraisers for this property. The effects were that the outside of the property was repaired, however the owner continues to neglect. It is unclear as to what will become of the building as the windows are boarded and the property remains vacant.