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158 Bowen Street, detail

2001 Ten Most Endangered Properties

194 Broadway
194 Broadway
Charles W. Bowen House (1905)
194 Broadway
PPS Most Endangered: 2001

Constructed in 1855, the Charles W. Bowen House is located within the Broadway-Armory National Register Historic District and the Broadway Local Historic District. The house is a classic example of the Greek Revival style that was popularized at the time by widely distributed builder’s guides. The orientation of the gable to the street stimulates a pediment-temple form, and a free-standing Greek Portico access the three-bay, side hall plan.

By the 1990s, the Bowen House had been vacant for a number of years, during which time it was a target for vandals and its lack of maintenance disrupted an otherwise intact streetscape. The building suffered from deteriorating brick and stone work, water infiltration, broken windows, extensive vegetation overgrowth, debris in the back yard, and numerous other building and safety code violations. On June 30, 2001, fire broke out in the house, which was luckily only minimally damaged. Area residents along Providence’s “Victorian Boulevard” were concerned with the derelict state of the property and the future use of the structure.

Fortunately, the Charles W. Bowen House is currently privately owned and used as residential as well as office space. Now that the building is once again inhabited there are no longer any reports of vandalism, and the previous damage has been repaired.

19th Century Mill Buildings
Throughout the City
PPS Most Endangered: 2001

Mill buildings represent Providence’s participation in the Industrial Revolution, and have the potential for adaptive reuse. Mayor Cianci has proposed a complete package of incentives to encourage their rehabilitation, but the program is dependent on passage by City council. Eagle Square, at the corner of Atwells and Eagle, is an example of such an area that has unfortunately been demolished and redevelopped.

Bannister House
Bannister House
Bannister House (c. 1883-1884)
93 Benevolent Street
PPS Most Endangered: 2001

The Bannister House is a small, 2½ story building that was constructed in c. 1883-1884 by the engineer Charles E. Paine. The Paines owned the house until 1924, but the structure served as the home of the prominent artist Edward Bannister from 1884 to 1889 (the National Register of Historic Places lists the date of the house as 1854. This late construction date is attributed to research by William McKenzie Woodward). Bannister was the only African-American founder of the Providence Art Club and a leader of the local art scene at the end of the 19th century. Although the house was not owned or created for Edward Bannister and his family, it nevertheless is the property most closely associated with them and also represents as association with the artist when he was at the peak of his career. Almost all of the other houses in Providence that Bannister and his family had occupied have been demolished, and all the buildings in which he maintained his studio have likewise disappeared.

In the 1930s, the Reeves family purchased and remodeled the building to house their antique and decorative art collection. The Bannister House was originally a simple wood dwelling, but it was clad in rough red brick during the renovations undertaken by the Reeves family. A shallow cornice replaced the old roof overhang, giving the structure an early 18th century appearance. Additionally, a handsome waterspout was made to order, being copied from a spout on Holyrood Castle in Scotland.

Part of the College Hill National Register District, the Bannister House was acquired by Brown University in 1989 and was used as a rental property for student housing, but the building was vacated by the mid-1990s. Brown subsequently used the house as a storage facility, but no action was taken to preserve the structure and it fell into a state of disrepair. For several years, Brown University had expressed interest in revitalizing the neglected house in a manner more fitting its history, but its small size of just over 2,000 square feet made reuse difficult for institutional purposes. After being vacant for several years, The Bannister House is set to be rehabilitated as part of the “Brown to Brown” program. As part of the project, Brown has proposed restoring the house to its original appearance.

Dwight Nursery/Carriage House
Dwight Nursery and Carriage House
Dwight Nursery and Carriage House (1870 CA)
Lincoln School Campus
PPS Most Endangered: 2001

Both the Dwight House and the Nursery Carriage House are part of the Lincoln School campus and are also listed as contributing structures in the Blackstone Park National Register Historic District, The Dwight House was originally a home built in 1870 for Christopher A. Pierce, but was later renamed the Margarethe Dwight House after the school’s founder. The building was a large, 2½-story, irregularly massed, weatherboard-class Second Empire with pedimented roof dormers, full-height corner pilasters, and a full-length, 1-story, hip-roofed entrance porch with paired and tripled Tuscan columns, a dentil entablature, and triangular pediment directly above the primary entrance. The house was renovated in 1883 and was eventually ceded to Lincoln School by the City of Providence. Through the years, the Dwight House served a variety of purposes: a place for music classes, a faculty residence, the alumnae office, the development office, and most recently, the business office. The Nursery Carriage House was formerly known as the Beane Barn, which was constructed by the same builder of the Dwight House in the late-19th century.

These two properties were placed on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List due to a proposition made by the Lincoln School that involved demolishing both buildings in order to transform the space into a new athletic facility, which included a dance studio and sports fields. This proposal was met with opposition from nearby residents. The school suggested that perhaps the buildings could be moved, but residents objected to this plan, claiming that the structures were historically significant due (in-part) to their locations. Eventually, local residents swayed the Lincoln School into repurposing the properties. While the Dwight House is now used as office space, the Nursery Carriage House is utilized for early-educational programs.

Fruit hill ave School
Fruit Hill Ave School
Manton Avenue School (1900 ca)
921 Manton Avenue
PPS Most Endangered: 1998, 2001, 2002

The Manton Avenue Grammar School was constructed as a public grammar school in 1888, replacing a small wooden building that had occupied the site since before 1855. Manton Avenue was one of 61 new public schools built in Providence between 1870 and 1900, at which time the city was experiencing a massive influx of immigrants. Designed by the prominent firm of William R. Walker & Sons, Manton Avenue was a two-story, hipped-roof, brick schoolhouse that continually retained much of its original, high-quality architectural character. Manton Avenue possessed unique classical detailing including a projecting wood cornice supported by modillion blocks, brick quoins marking the edges, and elaborate arcade porticoes.

Manton Avenue was owned by the state until 1980, when the property was sold and began to be privately owned. Remaining mostly vacant, the building suffered from vandalism and neglect, but nevertheless it was ripe for adaptive reuse as commercial or residential space, and it was also a contributing piece of the historic context of the surrounding mill district. Unlike other former school buildings, the Manton Avenue School was not landmarked as part of the development of the Industrial and Commercial Buildings District. Despite the efforts of the Preservation Society and the City Planning Department, the building was demolished in September 2002. The site is now occupied by a Family Dollar store surrounded by surface parking.

Hope High School
Hope High School
Hope High School Tower (1854)
149-153 Camp Street, Mount Hope
PPS Most Endangered: 2001, 2002

When it was constructed in 1938 by the Office of the Commissioner of Public Buildings, Hope High School, located at the corner of Olney and Hope Streets, was one of the most of the most impressive high schools in the United States. Built upon land used for the Hope Reservoir until the Scituate Reservoir rendered it obsolete in 1926, Hope High had access to large tracts of land and was constructed with extensive sports fields. The 4-story Georgian Revival structure was designed to accommodate more than 2000 students in its 60 classrooms and included a 1285-seat auditorium, library, cafeteria, study halls, and separate boys’ and girls’ gyms. Intended to serve as a neighborhood landmark, the structure was built with a stately red brick façade trimmed with limestone detailing, a hip-roof capped by several cupolas, and a tall central, wood-frame tower that is one of the highest points in the city.

Despite the fact that Hope High School is part of the College Hill National Register Historic District, over the years, time and harsh weather deteriorated the tower, the building’s predominant architectural feature. Due to other pressing concerns at the school and the economic hardship hitting urban public school programs around the country, maintenance of the tower was largely ignored for many years, resulting in chipped paint, rotted wood, and broken windows. With the help of the Providence Preservation Society and concerned locals, the State began looking into renovations on the neglected High Hope Tower. By the end of 2002, repairs began on the iconic tower.

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 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.

Rhodes Street National Register Historic District
South End
PPS Most Endangered: 2001, 2002

The Rhodes Street National Register Historic District is an excellent example of the changing nature of South Providence in a neighborhood that represents the development of that area of Providence in the Victorian period. One of the most interesting facts about the Rhodes Street district is the lack of similarity in architectural design between the various buildings along its length. Styles include an Italianate villa, a Queen Anne residence, and a Providence triple-decker.

Despite the richness of design and its designation in 1982 as a National Register Historic District, the houses of Rhodes Street have not aged well. The economic depressions of the area, intrusion of I-95, and encroachment of local hospital development have combined to dramatically reduce the quality of the housing stock. In many cases, damage or modifications to the structures has removed elements of design that made each building distinctive, spoiling the once diverse architectural environment. Moreover, some buildings have deteriorated to the point where they are in danger of becoming unsafe or targets for demolition. At the time that the Rhodes Street Historic District was included on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List, the area had suffered the loss of more than six of its nominated buildings. The loss of buildings due to arson, neglect, and vandalism is an ever-present threat to the district, which is increasingly isolated. The Rhodes Street District is an excellent example of how inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places does not in itself protect historic properties.

Willard B. Scott House
Willard B. Scott House
Willard B. Scott House (1854)
149-153 Camp Street, Mount Hope
PPS Most Endangered: 2001

Constructed in 1854, the Willard B. Scott House is a large, 3-story Italianate-style building with a low-hip roof, embellished with an elaborate door hood, scroll consoles, wide paneled eaves and second story round-arch windows. The bay windows and third story shingling date from later alterations, and a 20th century renovation added a storefront at the basement level. Situated at the intersection of Camp and Cypress Streets, the house represents the development of well-built, middle class, multi-unit housing in the Mount Hope area.

At the time that the house was included on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List, it was vacant and boarded and had suffered two arson incidents. The Providence Preservation Society hoped the property’s listing would promote the restoration of the Scott House, which could in turn help accelerate the revitalization of the Camp Street neighborhood. Fortunately, the house underwent a complete interior and exterior restoration, and is now rented and in full-time use. The storefront has once again reopened as a local deli, while the larger location has become a police substation.

William Dyer 60 Maple
William Dyer House
The William Dyer House (1900)
60 Maple Street
PPS Most Endangered: 2001, 2002

Built around 1855, the William H. Dyer House was a square, 3-story Italianate structure with wide, projecting eaves. The house was constructed as a rental property for the area’s middle-class mill workers and craftsmen by the master housewright William H. Dyer, who built several of the finer houses in the neighborhood in the 1850s. Although the house is located in the Pine Street National Register District, nearly one-third of the district’s contributing buildings have been demolished and the Dyer property itself suffered from years of neglect, vandalism, and abandonment.

As time passed, accounts of vandalism increased and circumstances regarding the Dyer House continued to decline to such an extent that the property was repossessed by the City of Providence and left in its care for close to four years. Fortunately, in 2002 the property was purchased by SWAP, Stop Wasting Abandoned Property, a community developer that renovates abandoned houses into affordable housing for low and moderate income families throughout Providence. The building was restored and is now utilized as an apartment building.