2000 Ten Most Endangered Properties
Alexander F. Adie House
93 Atwells Avenue
PPS Most Endangered: 2000
The Alexander F. Adie House was lost in 2014
The history of the Adie home is linked to the history of the neighborhood it occupied. Federal Hill rapidly developed in the early 19th century as home to the city’s working class. Known as Rhode Island’s own “Little Italy,” Federal Hill soon became the cultural and business center to one of the nation’s largest Italian populations. In 1871, local drug and chemical manufacturer Alexander F. Adie built his home on a prominent site overlooking Interstate 95 in this vibrant neighborhood.
The property unfortunately fell into a state of disrepair and remained vacant for a number of years before being demolished in 2014. The extent of the repairs was not enough to have warranted demolition however the owner had no interest in performing them. The property is now a parking lot.
Jerothmul B. Barnaby House “Barnaby’s Castle” (1875; 1888)
299 Broadway, Federal Hill
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 1999, 2000, 2011, 2012
Barnaby’s Castle is an elaborate 2½-story High Victorian mansion with a patterned-slate mansard roof, turrets, dormers and iron cresting. In 1885, the original 1875 structure was enlarged by the addition of a four-story, clapboard and red slate, 12-sided, conical rood tower with open loggia, and an elaborate conservatory with arched windows of stained glass and a circular-plan, open porch. The house is one of Broadway’s Iconic Victorians.
Jerothmul Barnaby was a self-made magnate in the ready-to-wear clothing industry; he also owned a large store at 180-204 Westminster Avenue. In 1875, Barnaby commissioned the architectural firm of Stone, Carpenter and Wilson to build the home on a prominent corner on Broadway, the city’s Victorian boulevard. The eccentric composition and ornamentation of the house break from the restrained traditions of the firm and are thereby attributed to the wild tastes of its owner.
It is listed as being owned by Broadway Apartments Inc, an organization known to promote community outreach programs and rented out at six different apartments. However, it is in a state of disrepair requiring not only a new roof but renovations to its ornate facade.
Cranston Street Armory (1907)
310 Cranston Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003
Originally the Dexter Training ground, the property was willed to the city of Providence in 1824 by Ebenezer Knight Dexter, who specified that the land be used for military training. Accordingly, the grounds were used during the civil war for the encampment and drill field for Rhode Island Regiments. However, after the war the land was used more as a playground and common area. In 1893 it became part of the Providence Parks System, although it was still used periodically for military drills.
The building was constructed in 1907 to house the Rhode Island National Guard. It was 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. In order to accommodate the large building, preexisting properties had been demolished. 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 since then. While different plans have arisen regarding what to do with the property, the interior of the building became unuseable due to structural damage resulting from severe neglect.
Fortunately, Governor Chaffee showed interest in this property and all other state-owned historic properties. He requested and received $1,000,000 for the restoration of this property. Additionally, he put aside more in state funding, and although the building is still vacant, necessary repairs are underway to make it usable once more.
David Sprague House
7 Harvard Avenue
PPS Most Endangered: 1998, 1999, 2000
When the David Sprague House was constructed at 263 Public Street in 1839, it was one of the few dwellings in the rural hinterland that would become part of the South Providence neighborhood. Built by a meat dealer, the house remained in an area that developed slowly until the mid-to-late nineteenth century. The construction of the first horsecar line into South Providence in 1865 spurred the residential development of the neighborhood into one of the first major streetcar suburbs of Providence. South Providence became a densely settled area and the Sprague House was soon surrounded by large Late Victorian-era houses. Since the original occupant’s tenancy, the building was continually used as a residence except for short period between 1936 and 1938, when it was a tearoom known as "Ye Little White House Tea Room."
The Sprague House’s 1½-story structure, an example of traditional plank frame construction, typifies the conservatism of rural building in the early nineteenth century. Utilizing a plan and construction methods that had been prevalent in Rhode Island since Colonial times, the house was ornamented with spare and characteristic Federal detailing of a type popular two decades earlier. By the mid-1930s, the Sprague House was already in a neighborhood landmark noted for its antiquity and quaint architecture. The majority of the house’s tenants have been appreciative of its historic importance and few major alterations have been made in the building. The loss of the few other early structures that may have existed in South Providence left the Sprague House as the area’s oldest and most well-preserved landmark. As the best surviving example of this type of domestic architecture in Providence, the Sprague House was individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
In recent decades, the area around the Sprague House decayed into a landscape consisting of several vacant lots and abandoned buildings. The house itself fell into a state of disrepair due to structural problems related to aging and was considered for demolition. However, around 2000, the Providence Preservation Society Revolving Fund raised the necessary funding to not only have the property restored, but also to have it moved to a more suitable neighborhood. Currently the property sits completely restored on its new location of 7 Harvard Avenue.
Mowry-Nicholson House (1856)
57 Brownell Street
PPS Most Endangered: 2000
The pointed tower of the Mowry-Nicholson House is a Providence landmark that almost wasn’t. Built in 1956 by the contracting firm Mowry and Steere, this historic home served as the residence for William G.R. until its purchase in 1867 by William T Nicholson, owner of the Nicholson File Company.
Though the house was originally a two and a half story cruciform Italianate villa, Nicholson remodeled the building. The northwest addition completed in 1887, included the three and a half story tower with quoins, oculus windows and a steeply pitched roof. The shed dormer on the cross-gable roof was added in the twentieth century. The house is an excellent example of Italianate architecture and contains 4000 square feet on a double lot. It boasts Palladian windows, an airy porch, a distinctive tower, and Queen Anne detailing. The house served as a single-family residence until the 1920’s when it was divided into apartments.
In 1997, a fire caused extensive damage to the property. The owner of the building, which then served as a boarding house planned to raze the site and replace it with a parking lot. Upon catching wind of the proposed demolition, PPS immediately began an advocacy campaign. Not only was the house individually listed on the National Register, making it architecturally significant in its own right, but the house sat on the edge of the Smith Hill National Register Historic District. PPS feared that the conversion of the property would deprive the district of one of its most prominent landmarks, and that necessary variance changes would promote further encroachments by adjacent commercial zones. Neighbors had long felt that the boarding house was incompatible with the neighborhood and thus supported the demolition. Persuaded by PPS arguments however, they agreed to support the preservation of the house. The owner remained unconvinced, until PPS threatened to challenge the parking lot variance, at which time the owner finally conceded. PPS, in appreciation agreed to advertise the property and launched a mailing campaign offering information about the home and available low-interest loans and tax credits.
It would be several years until the house was sold. In that time the owner completed several repairs to the building, restoring its structural integrity. PPS also enlisted the help of individuals and local organizations who showed interest in restoring the building.
In 2001 the property was sold twice, falling into the eager ownership of Frank Hopton and Ken Parker who then converted the home into a bed and breakfast. Builder Scott Weremay and associates Dave Brown and Jose Tirado have rehabilitated the entire interior into guest rooms and suites while carefully preserving original details and crafting new elements appropriate to the Italianate style. The restoration of the Mowry-Nicholson Home has greatly contributed to the ongoing, house-by-house, improvement of Smith Hill.
North Burial Ground
PPS Most Endangered: 2000
Set aside for militia training and as the first common burying ground in Providence, the North Burial Ground has since expanded fifteen-fold and become exclusively a 150-acre cemetery. The original section of the Burial Ground is located on the plateau rising to the north of the intersection of Branch Avenue and North Main Street. It is laid out in a random grid pattern and retains a number of 18th- and early 19th-century slab monuments, primarily of slate and marble and including work of Newport’s John Stevens Shop and Providence’s Tingley shop. North and west of this section lie picturesquely landscaped grounds set out beginning in the mid-1840s following the precepts of the rural cemetery movement. Atwater & Schubarth, the Providence landscape and engineering firm, laid out this section, gradually expanded along the same lines north and west as needed. The monuments in this section are generally larger and carved of granite or marble, including the Brown family mausoleum (1869). The northwest section is the free burial ground, the so-called "potter’s field", whose markers are small, if existent at all. Structures on the grounds include an office at the entrance, built in 1883, and a receiving tomb, on the western slope of the southern plateau, constructed in 1903.
The earliest surviving example of Providence civic institutions, North Burial Ground reflects the change of social and humanitarian attitudes that are so completely interwoven with civic history, notably the evolution of the 18th-century common burying ground into the handsome and well-landscaped rural burial park of the 19th century. North Burial Ground further retains a fine collection of funerary sculpture spanning nearly three centuries.
The North Burial Ground was placed on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List in 2000, due to the deteriorating state of its headstones and memorials. There have been some volunteer efforts in the way of preservation, but there are still more stones in need of repair. Furthermore, although there are some independent volunteers who quite generously take it upon themselves to preserve headstones, the methods they use in some instances damage the stones. The use of shaving cream, polish, and sealant may initially improve the look of the stone, but they leave behind a residue or trap water inside causing lasting damage. In 2014 and 2015 PPS hosted tours of the cemetery with organizers of the “North Burial Ground Project,” who hope to jumpstart programming and fundraising efforts for the historic landscape.
Silver Spring Bleaching and Dyeing
387 Charles Street
PPS Most Endangered: 2000
The former Silver Spring Bleaching and Dyeing Company complex was lost in 2001.
Upon founding the Silver Spring Bleaching and Dyeing Company in 1864, Henry Lippitt and Charles Merriman purchased the buildings at 387 Charles Street, near Silver Spring Street, in addition to the land and water rights to the former Frieze and Dow’s Bleachery. Frieze and Dow’s had garnered a high reputation within the industry for the extraordinary whiteness of it’s goods, a quality that many locals attributed to the extraordinarily clean water of a nearby spring and the nearby West River. Silver Spring Bleaching and Dyeing profited from the success of its predecessor and by 1897 had it’s business considerably, adding cloth printing to its operations. At its height, the company employed almost 600 workers. In 1905, the United States Finishing Company, a prominent textile combine which also owned the Queen Dyeing Company, purchased the Silver Spring Complex, where the company operated until the 1950’s.
The complex consisted of 1-,2-, and 3-story, flat roof, brick mill structures, several of which have low gable roofs with clerestory monitors and corbel cornices. At the south end of the complex, a 2-story, brick, flat roof structure with segmental arch windows originally housed the company’s offices. Prominently situated on Charles Street, the Silver Spring Bleaching and Dyeing Company largely drove the physical and social development of the surrounding neighborhood. Many credit the company with having brought diversity to the area in the form of a vibrant immigrant population. Several of the homes that line Charles and other adjacent streets formerly housed company employees.
In 2000, several of the small business occupying the former Silver Spring complex were ordered to vacate the structure which was scheduled for demolition in order to make way for the arrival of a Home Depot.
Silver Top Diner (1947)
13 Harris Avenue
PPS Most Endangered: 2000
The Silver Top Diner has relocated outside of Providence.
The Silver top diner had been a part of Providence for many years, occupying an area nearby the Cadillac Lounge on Harris Street. The business however fell into bankruptcy forcing it to close and putting its future in jeopardy.
The business was purchased however, by an unanimous party that moved the cart out of Providence into Pawtucket. Unfortunately a legal battle is still ensuing regarding the diner which has yet to open since the move in 2002.
Wheeler Martin House (1798-1824)
243-245 North Main Street, College Hill
PPS Most Endangered: 1999, 2000
This three-story brick residence was built between 1798 and 1824 as College Hill began to develop. Included in the original street plans of early Providence, the Wheeler Martin House is considered a significant example of local architecture and a giant contribution to the historic fabric of the surrounding area. With its dentil cornice, brick stringcourses, plate glass store front, and recessed entry facing the street the building is an example of contemporary tastes.
This building was included on the 1999 and 2000 Most Endangered Properties list due to an extended period of vacancy and neglect. The exterior of the building was in danger off collapse as it’s mortar began to deteriorate, meanwhile within the building vegetation had begun to grow from cracks in the floor.
Fortunately, Bay and Bay architects began a renovation of the building, consisting of repairs and converting it into office and residential space. However, it is unclear whether or not the building is in use or vacant.
Wickenden Street Bathhouse (1926)
455 Wickenden Street
PPS Most Endangered: 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003
Following the arrival of large numbers of immigrants in the early 20th century, the City of Providence began constructing public hot water bathing facilities in an effort to mitigate the obvious health dangers associated with the poor living conditions of typical contemporary tenements, particularly the lack of indoor plumbing, overcrowding, and poor ventilation. The Wickenden Street/Fox Point Bath House was constructed in 1926 in the Fox Point neighborhood according to Resolution 208 of the Commissioner of Public Works. The structure was a brick, 1-story, approximately 2,500 square foot building with a slate hip roof and a monitor. The Bath House provided area residents with a way to stay healthy and clean as well as a social center and community meeting place.
The structure served as a bath house until 1953, when city zoning mandated that all residential buildings have hot running water and made the facility on Wickenden Street obsolete. The building, which is directly adjacent to the Vartan Gregorian (Fox Point) Elementary School, was used as a library and a storage area from 1960 to 1970, but later fell into neglect in the 1970s. For the next few decades, the city-owned property remained vacant and suffered from a lack of maintenance. By the late-1990s, windows in the roof monitor were broken and uncovered, which made it possible for pigeons to infest the structure. One basement window was broken and left unsecured, providing easy access for rodents, vagrants, and vandals. Water was also entering the structure, where slates on the roof had failed and needed to be replaced. Despite its derelict condition, the Wickenden Street Bath House was still fundamentally sound and was a crucial link to understanding a piece of Providence’s history, when bath houses were commonplace in many city neighborhoods.
Efforts to attract state and city attention to the Wickenden Street property received tremendous community support. After the building was on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List several times, the city undertook plans to renovate the structure and incorporate it into the Vartan Gregorian Elementary School. Through a mix of significant state and city financial support, a complete renovation and restoration of the historic building was completed in the mid-2000s. Currently, the top floor of the building is used as the library for the elementary school, and the lower floor is utilized as multi-purpose space for the school and available for community use as well.