2002 Ten Most Endangered Properties
Church of God in Christ Jesus (Christ Episcopal Church) 
909 Eddy Street
PPS Most Endangered:1999, 2002, 2003
Designed in 1888 by the prominent Providence architectural firm of William R. Walker & Son in the Gothic Revival Style, the Christ Episcopal Church occupied the entire lot at the corner of Eddy and Oxford Streets. For decades, the church was a visual landmark in its neighborhood and was one of the finest examples of Victorian Gothic ecclesiastical design in Providence. The red brick and brownstone building, capped by an attenuated spire and fine molded detailing, represented a vital period in the social, religious, and cultural evolution of the neighborhoods of Providence.
Since the church’s congregation always remained a moderate size and did not significantly grow, the building was never expanded or considerably altered. The most recent congregation to use the structure was the Church of God in Jesus Christ, but the number of worshipers began to decline after 1950. The small congregation continued to sponsor a variety of social service programs for area residents, but little money was available for the preservation of the building, which was suffering from deferred maintenance. Although the Christ Church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976, the congregation was forced to close the building in 1981. While the church remained vacant for many years, its condition continued to worsen. The building’s numerous stained glass windows were eventually removed, including the important north aisle window designed by Cox, Sons, Buckley & Co. of New York.
The Christ Episcopal Church was cited by the city’s Department of Inspection and Standards in 2003 after having received numerous complaints from neighbors regarding safety hazards. Besides including the church on the Ten Most Endangered Properties List, PPS also tried to work with the owners and city officials to find an appropriate reuse for the building. PPS toured members of the press through the church in the winter of 2003 in an effort to raise awareness of the structure’s plight. Unfortunately, the building continued to deteriorate to the point that major rehabilitative work was required before the structure could even be occupied. PPS planned to continue to advocate for this important landmark, but the amount of code violations was so extensive that there was little choice other than to demolish the building in 2006.
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.
Grove Street Elementary School (1901)
95 Grove St, Federal Hill
PPS Most Endangered: 2002, 2003, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
The Grove Street Elementary School was constructed in 1901 as a grammar school to accommodate the massive influx of immigrants to the surrounding Broadway-Armory neighborhood. The building was an imposing 2-story, T-shaped, brick structure on a granite foundation with a hipped roof and impressive chimney. The school featured brick quoins on the corners and modillion blocks at the cornices. The two entrances, originally separate for boys and girls, were recessed within arched openings, embellished with brick corbelling and keystones. Architecturally, the school signified a distinct presence among the multi-family houses of quiet Grove Street. The Grove Street School was part of the Industrial and Commercial Buildings District and was also listed as a contributing feature in the Broadway-Armory National Register Historic District.
The Grove Street School was closed in 1975 as Providence experienced a decline in its population. In 1983, the building was purchased from the city by a private owner. The owners began to demolish the Grove Street School in February 2001 without a permit and in violation of a stop-work order. The city filed a lawsuit against the owners, who argued during the trial that the building was unsafe and had to be demolished.
In April 2008, Judge Daniel Procaccini fined the owners for trying to demolish the school without a permit, but he concluded that the structure was a threat to public safety and he directed that the building inspector issue a demolition permit. The city appealed the decision, and in July 2009, the Rhode Island Supreme Court overturned the lower court ruling, stating that Procaccini had no right to order the city to do anything. Justice Paul Suttell agreed that the Grove Street School was unsafe, but he said that it was up to city to decide how to address it. The city ordered the owners to make major repairs to the elementary school, but the building had been open to the elements for several years and had suffered further deterioration. In 2011, the owners received the necessary permits to complete the demolition of the Grove Street School.
Hope High School Tower (1854)
324 Hope St
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.
John and Thomas Hope Building (1882)
1 Mashapaug Street
PPS Most Endangered: 2002
Established in Providence in 1850, the John & Thomas Company provided a unique and necessary service for the printing industry by inventing the first efficient pantograph engraving machine. These machines in one step transferred and engraved in copper printing rolls the design from a two-dimensional pattern. In 1882, the company constructed its new facility at 1 Mashapaug Street in the Elmwood neighborhood. The building was a simple, unadorned, 3½- story structure that had a slightly pitched roof and segmental-arch windows with granite sills. By the end of the 1880s, the John and Thomas Hope Company was supplying all of the country’s calico-printing firms. The business could claim to be the sole company to provide pantographing in both the United States and Europe. The company was formally incorporated in 1890 and continued manufacturing pantograph engravers and engraving cylinders until 1930. The company remained family owned until both of John’s sons died in the late 1920s, and the business was then taken over by Andrew Stockman. Under Stockman’s control, the interior of the plant was remodeled and modernized, and a photo-engraving department was added. The company also began engraving brass cylinders which were used for embossing paper.
The company remained in the Mashapaug Street facility until 1936, and following that time the factory building has been used by several different companies. The longest to occupy the building was the Koffler Truck Company, which manufactured trucks from 1937 to the early 1960s. The John & Thomas Hope Company Building was later utilized by a furniture storage company and a jewelry-tool manufacturer. Abandoned in the mid-1980s, the property suffered from neglect. The building was included in the Industrial and Commercial Buildings District, but it remained vacant and continued to deteriorate. Despite the Providence Preservation Society’s efforts in trying to raise awareness for the John & Thomas Hope Company Building, which had enormous reuse possibilities as commercial and residential space, the lack of maintenance left the structure in a precarious state, leading to its eventual demolition.
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.
Potters Avenue Elementary School (1910)
775 Potters Avenue
PPS Most endangered Properties List: 2002
Constructed as a public grammar school in 1888, the Potters Avenue Elementary School was one of 61 new public schools built in Providence between 1870 and 1900, during a period of substantial immigration. The building is a 2-story, hip-roof, rectangular, brick structure located on the corner of Potters Avenue and Brattle Street. The school has a triangular center gable on both the front and rear elevations, each with a small oculus below the gable. Two pedestrian entrances with concrete steps are situated on both the front and rear elevations, flanking the center gable-roof projection, and four brick chimneys rise from the roofline.
The school building remained owned by the City of Providence until it was transferred to the Church of the Assumption in 1944. The property was later owned by several real estate firms, and eventually it was used use as a warehouse for the M&J Supply Company. The Potters Avenue Elementary School’s function as a warehouse was in fact illegal, as the company did not procure the correct permits. Additionally, in converting the building to a warehouse, the entire interior of the structure was demolished to make room for its new function. Once M & J Supply Company relocated, they ceased to use the property entirely and the building fell into a state of disrepair. Despite its neglected condition, the former school retained much of its original architectural character. Fortunately, the property was purchased by a group of individuals who wanted to develop the area in 2003. Initially they intended to demolish the building, but a deal was made allowing them a tax credit if they repurposed the property. Since that time, the Potters Avenue Elementary School has been rented out as twelve different apartments, consisting of both residential and commercial space.
Providence Produce Warehouse (1929)
2 Harris Avenue, Smith Hill
PPS Most Endangered: 2002, 2003, 2007
The Providence Produce Warehouse was lost in 2008.
The Providence Produce Warehouse was built in 1929 to designs by the architecture firm of Jenks & Ballou as a hub for the distribution of meat and produce in Southeastern New England. Construction costs for the then state-of-the-art structure totaled over one million dollars and included innovative technology and building techniques reflecting changing transportation systems. Direct train access facilitated the transfer of goods from trains along the southern elevation and trucks along the northern one, while cable-stayed awnings sheltered the elevated loading docks of both sides. The brick facade on the northern side featured seventy-one loading bays punctuated by seven concrete towers. The art-deco detailing of the reinforced pilasters along these towers provided the only ornamentation on the functional building. On the southern side eleven windowed cupolas contained freight elevators to transfer goods among the building’s three stories. At the time of its 1929 construction, the Warehouse stood 965 feet long, 58 feet wide, and 25 feet tall.
Throughout the latter half of the century, however, the continued decentralization of industry, in addition to the introduction of refrigerated trucks and subsequent decline of the commercial railway network, rendered the Warehouse obsolete, even useless, by contemporary standards. By the 1980s the majority of the 174,000 square foot structure was vacant. The Federal government then purchased the structure and tore down the railroad bays and eastern most towers in order to accommodate the construction of an on-ramp to I-95. In 1999, the last vendor vacated the building.
The now 810 feet long building remains largely intact despite vacancy and deterioration. PPS included the warehouse on its 2000, 2002, and 2003 Most Endangered Lists to call attention to a unique and promising development opportunity. Interestingly situated, the Warehouse neighbors both Providence Place and the new “903” Condominium Complex. Its proximity to Waterplace Park, Union Station, and available parking offer further reasons for development. Meanwhile, its open layout affords a developer rare freedom with regards to its design. Since its first Most Endangered listing, the condition of the Providence Produce Warehouse has continued to worsen; an early morning fire in 2002 severely damaged the upper level. Another fire in 2005 was quickly extinguished and only burned wooden crates and pallets that were inside the concrete building.
The Warehouse was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 and is part of the City’s Industrial and Commercial Buildings District (ICBD), both of which provide considerable potential tax advantages for rehabilitation and ensure some preservation protection. Preservation-minded residents and several state agencies have expressed concern over the future of this important building. In 2003, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation, the owner of the warehouse at that time, completed a preliminary analysis, which not only confirmed the structural integrity of the building but also advocated for its reuse as residential condominiums, and issued a public request for proposals from developers. Carpionato Properties, a developer with headquarters in Johnston, had recently purchased the building from the State after three years in limbo following the signing of a purchase and sales agreement.
With the expansion of interstate 95, the building was demolished in order to provide space for a stretch of highway.
Rhodes Street National Register Historic District
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.
What Cheer Laundry (1906)
93 Cranston Street, West End
PPS Most Endangered: 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 2002, 2003, 2007
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.
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.
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.