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State Armory, Cranston St, from HABS/HAER

1994 Ten Most Endangered Properties

Gorham Manufactoring
Gorham Manufacturing
The Gorham Manufacturing Complex
333 Adelaide Avenue
PPS Most Endangered: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997

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. Following the demolition of the Gorham plant and several other industrial properties, the City of Providence implemented the Industrial and Commercial Buildings District to protect Providence's Industrial Heritage.

Masonic Temple
The Masonic Temple
The Masonic Temple (1926)
5 Avenue of the Arts
PPS Most Endangered: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003

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 VeteransMemorial 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 stoodalongside 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 wasexposed 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 remainedundamaged.

After spending more time on the Ten Most Endangered Properties list than any other structure, PPS organized a charrette to determine sustainable uses for the building. 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 Phenix Iron Foundry
The Phenix Iron Foundry
The Phenix Iron Foundry (1884)
110 Elm Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998

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 PropertiesList 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 theroof 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 proposedinvolved 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 asoffice space. Most recently the building was purchased by Brown University and is currently in use as their Office of Development.

Shepard's Department Store
Shepard Department Store Building (1870’s)
259 West Minster Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1994

The unique six story building that once housed the Shepard Department Store is made from an amalgamation of different buildings that were absorbed by different expansion projects. As a result, this the building is made of many different materials including brick, stone, cast iron, stucco, and terracotta giving it a very unique appearance; most notably, the cast Ironclock that hangs from the front of the building, which serves a distinct downtown landmark.

The buildings future was put in jeopardy when the once successful department store fell into bankruptcy in 1974. Since then, the state of Rhode Island came into ownership of the property, but had yet to utilize it, making the building's demolition a strong possibility.

Fortunately, the state abruptly changed its mind and by the mid 1990s large scale renovations were underway. With the Providence Place Mall project underway in the early 1990s, the University of Rhode Island was about to be displaced from their building on the Mall site. Following a successful charrette organized by PPS, it was decided that Shepard was to be repurposed as additional officespace and classrooms for the University of Rhode Island, seeing as though the creation of the mall would cost them valuable space. The property continues to be used by URI and is no longer in any danger.

St. Maria's Home
St. Maria's Home
St. Maria’s Home (1895)
125 Governor Street, Providence
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 1994

The St. Maria’s Home building, now more commonly known as “The Governor” was built by Joseph Banigan on the site of Governor Fenner’s home. It is a 3-1/2 story, brick building witha high hip roof, hip-roof dormers, large bay windows, and a slightly projecting central pavilion with a columned front porch providing an eclectic mix of styles that was not uncommonduring the 1890’s.

Although the home was initially run by St. Joseph’s Church as a home for young Irish Women it eventually fell into disuse leading to a debate in ownership between the Diocese ofProvidence and the heirs of Joseph Banigan. During this period, which extended for more than twenty years (1973-1995) the building remained unused and uncared for until anagreement was reached, in which the heirs of Joseph Banigan and the Diocese of Providence sold the property to Omni-Governor Inc. Under the care of Omni-Governor Inc. thebuilding was renovated and made into affordable elderly housing. It currently has over fifty seven apartments devoted solely to this.

2 and 3 story Porches
Two and Three-story Porches
Two and Three-Story Porches
Oakland Avenue
PPS Most Endangered: 1994

Listed on the Oakland Avenue National Register Historic District, this district is known for its triple and double-decker houses built between 1890 and 1910. One of it’s definingcharacteristics are the porches that adorn these multi story houses.

The porches are now between the ages of 80-100 years old and are in need of structural repairs. Many of these properties are also owned by absentee owners who rent the properties out to local college students. Maintenance of these buildings has suffered, and if this continues they will be lost.

Wanskuck Mill Houses
Wanskuck Mill Houses
Wanskuck Mill Housing (1850)
758, 764, 776,784 Branch Avenue
PPS Most Endangered: 1994

Listed on the National Register as a part of the Wanskuck Mill District/National Register Historic District, these buildings are the standard mill houses built by the Wanskuck Mill Companyto house its employees.

These properties were first added to the list due to years of neglect and deferred maintenance that left the buildings in a severe state of disrepair. Although extensive repairs havebeen undergone along this area of Branch Ave, the repairs have however taken away from the historical integrity of the properties. The use of vinyl siding and windows has seriously detracted from the uniqueness of the properties.

The Whitmarsh
The Whitmarsh
The Whitmarsh (1913)
86 Whitmarsh Street, Elmwood
PPS Most Endangered: 1994

A contributing building in the Elmwood National Register Historic District, constructed in 1913 by architect Frank Woods This Large Tudor-style, 3-story, brick and stucco apartmenthouse, grouped about a broad and shallow court, is notable as the first large apartment building in Elmwood and one of the earliest in Providence.

The building had begun to deteriorate in the early 90’s when the then owners were on the verge of bankruptcy. At that that time the building was under maintained and only half of itwas effectively in use. After bankruptcy had been declared the apartments were closed and the building was boarded up and left in a state of neglect.

Not long after in 1995, the building was purchased by Omni-Development who immediately drew up plans to restore the apartments. Two years later in 1997 work began on the $1.3 million dollar restoration. The building, now fully restored is once again an apartment, specifically for low income families.

William A. Taft House
William A. Taft House
William A Taft House
89 Hudson Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1994

This property was previously owned by an absentee owner, and was a problematic property when it was occupied as nobody maintained it. The building was declared abandoned as both of the then owners were no longer living in it or paying taxes.

The bank holding the mortgage of the property was unwilling to foreclose as they didn’t want to take responsibility of a property in such poor condition. Although the state had discussed talks of demolition the house was purchased on auction before the plans could be followed through upon.

The new owners undertook the necessary repair work need to restore this house, and although they sold the house, it is now inhabited and in good hands.

Williow Street School
Willow Street School
Willow Street School (1875)
99 Willow Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1994

Constructed in 1875 to the designs of architect E. L. Angell, this two story, mansard-roof,, brick building is notable for its polychrome radiating visors and projecting entrance pavilions. The school was one of eleven primary schools during the city’s extensive building campaign of the 1870’s. The Willow Street School is the earliest extant example of these public school buildings.

Located in the Armory District this early twentieth century brick schoolhouse suffered from years of neglect that had resulted in a leaky roof and advanced structural deterioration at the time the building was placed on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List.

The property has since been renovated to provide housing for developmentally challenged adults. Besides interior changes to the building, to accommodate its new use, the building’s roof was replaced and its ornate cornice was restored. The renovation not only preserved the architectural beauty of the large brick building but reestablished it as a center of community activity in a neighborhood that had long been neglected. The building is now enhanced by towering trees and bright landscaping that define the corner lot of the property. The rest of the neighborhood began to follow suit in making repairs to other neglected properties.