2012 Ten Most Endangered Properties
- George C. Arnold Building
- Jerothmul B. Barnaby House (“Barnaby’s Castle”)
- Flower Shop and Green House at 398 Hope Street
- Foreclosed Multifamily Housing Stock
- Cathedral of St. John
- Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House
- Narragansett Electric Lighting (Dynamo House)
- Former Rhode Island Department of Transportation Headquarters and Garage
- Roger Williams Park Seal House
- Ward Baking Company Administration Building
Map of 2012 Most Endangered Properties
View 2012 Most Endangered Properties in a larger map
For more information on each property, please scroll down.
Cathedral of St. John (1810)
271 North Main Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2014
The Cathedral of St. John is the successor to King’s Church, organized in the same location in 1722. The building, as it exists today, was designed by Providence’s Federal-era architect John Holden Greene and built in 1810. The church is constructed in Smithfield stone with brownstone trim and combines Federal forms with Gothic detailing: the end-gable-roof Federal mass is articulated with lancet-arch windows with tracery. A clustered-colonnette porch introduces the projecting gabled vestibule, which supports a square clock tower and belfry with spiky pinnacles above it. Inside is a low-saucer-dome ceiling nave supported by clustered colonnettes.
The deteriorated church tower is causing the rotting of wood structural elements as well as cracking and crumbling of the interior plaster walls and the sanctuary ceiling. In April, 2012, the Diocese suspended regular services at the Cathedral due to the high cost of maintaining the building. The Diocese continues to be supportive to efforts to advocate for the building’s preservation. Over the past year, the preservation community has been encouraged by the leadership of the recently elected Bishop of Rhode Island, the Right Reverend W. Nicholas Knisely, and by the Diocese’s creation of a task force dedicated to addressing the Cathedral’s closure.
Flower Shop and Green House at 398 Hope Street (C. 1885)
398 Hope Street, Mount Hope
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2012
The historic flower shop at 398 Hope Street closed in 2011 after neighbors opposed efforts to demolish the building in order to construct a drive-through coffee shop. Today, however, this unique nineteenth-century building sits empty. The site has functioned as a florist since the 1880s, operated by Eugene McCarron when this portion of Hope Street was known as East Avenue. Insurance maps dating to the early twentieth-century show that the building’s current configuration was largely in place by 1919.
The shop’s façade is built to the sidewalk, in keeping with the historic, walkable nature of the greater Hope Street area. The community is interested in any proposal that seeks to preserve the character of the neighborhood, as indicated by the grassroots neighborhood group Preserve Hope Street. Although the owner is open to any ideas regarding the property he admits that the property is in a state of disrepair and due to the shop being closed he doesn’t have the necessary funding for the repairs.
In early 2013 the property was sold at auction to a Tim Schartner who is interested in maintaining its use as a flower shop. Although these may have been his intentions little has been done in the way of repairs and new talks of converting the property into a veterinary clinic specializing in cats. For the mean time, the shop remains closed, leaving the properties future in jeopardy.
Foreclosed Multi Family Housing Stock
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2012
The Foreclosed Multifamily Housing Stock of Providence is full of once-handsome buildings that provided pleasant housing for middle-and-working-class residents. Now, many of these buildings are abandoned, stripped of plumbing, and boarded up, creating a continuing drag on their neighborhoods' chances of revitalization.
Providence has a great history of revitalization, from Benefit Street to the Broadway-Armory Historic District. We are lucky to live in a city with community development corporations that recognize the worth and beauty of historic multi-family housing units, which are of a type typical to the region. The Providence Preservation Society is recognizing the excellent work of four of these organizations at our 2011 Historic Preservation Awards, and we hope this city can continue to find creative ways to bring new life to these buildings.
Former RIDOT Headquarters and Garage (1927)
30 Arline Street
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2008, 2009, 2012, 2014
A two-story Art Deco building with a flat roof and pier-and-spandrel construction, the former headquarters for the Rhode Island Department of Transportation is one of the only examples of the machine aesthetic in the architecture of Smith Hill. It was one of the first modernist buildings erected by the State of Rhode Island.
The building was acquired by the Narragansett Bay Commission (NBC) for their Combined Sewer Overflow (CSO) project. Plans were in place to have the building demolished until the Rhode Island Historical Preservation & Heritage Commission determined that the building would be eligible for a National Register listing through a Consensus Determination of Eligibility in November 2006. Terms of the sale required the current owner to restore and maintain the Art Deco building, and there were reportedly plans to restore the building to garage a fleet of trucks, but the building remains in disrepair and is being underutilized as a warehouse. No plans to begin work on the building have been submitted despite its inclusion on the 2008, 2009 and 2012 Most Endangered Properties List.
The building is now owned by Quality Food Company, a family owned food distributor that has operated out of Smith Hill for over 75 years. With the possibility of an extended State Historic Tax Credit program, PPS hopes to continue the discussion started in 2006 and explore rehabilitation options with the Providence-based company.
George C. Arnold Building (1923)
98 Washington Street
PPS Most Endangered: 2010 (Providence National Register District), 2011(Providence National Register District), 2012
The George C. Arnold building is a three story, 3500 square foot building located along Washington Street in Downtown Providence. It was constructed in 1923 to the designs of William R. Walker and Sons Architects, who designed several other major buildings around the city including the Cranston Street Armory on the West End. It is a brick-sheathed structure, which is typical of low-rise structures built in the area during the years following WWI. At 12.5 feet wide it is notably the narrowest building in the downtown area, which was the result of a street widening project in 1917.
The Arnold building became in danger during the 1990s when the building behind it was torn down and a parking lot was built. When constructed in 1923, the back wall of the Arnold building was built adjacent to the neighboring structure and was not intend to have a stand-alone fourth wall. Additionally, this fourth wall was never finished off so when the adjacent building was torn down, it still had exposed wall paper and plaster from the preexisting building which was not waterproofed so further damage was caused to this side of the building. After the back building was demolished, there were fears by local advocates that the George C. Arnold building would follow suit given its lack of utilization.
In September of 2009, a fire damaged the building, rendering it completely vacant. Perhaps the most unfortunate aspect of this is that the fire occurred while the owner was in the process of finishing up extensive repair work to the exterior of the building. Few repairs were made immediately following the fire, creating a noticeable void in this active section of Washington Street. In this time the building was featured on the MEP list for three years in a row from 2010 to 2012. Fortunately in 2013, the building was acquired by the Revolving Fund who teamed up with Lori Quinn and David Stem to rehabilitate the building. It is currently in use as mixed use property with two commercial spaces on the street level and three residential units on the upper floors.
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.
Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House (1867)
514 Broadway, Federal Hill
PPS Most Endangered: 2010, 2012
Built in a very elaborate Italianate Style, this house is often referred to as the “Wedding Cake House” as it is Providence’s consummate “gingerbread” house. The Kendrick-Prentice-Tirocchi House was probably built and designed in 1867 by Broadway resident Perez Mason. Built for John Kendrick, a manufacturer of loom harnesses, important to 19th-century textile production, it became the home of buttonhook manufacturer and street-railway tycoon George W. Prentice in the early 1880s.
Anna Tirocchi and Laura Tirocchi Cella operated A. & L. Tirocchi, a dress making shop, at 514 Broadway from 1915 to 1947, catering to wealthy clients, many of whom were wives and daughters of the newly successful industrialists from Providence and Fall River. Their first shop was located in the Butler Exchange Building on Westminster Street from 1911 to 1915. In 1915, Laura married and Anna purchased the house on Broadway, at which time they had already developed their wealthy clientele.
The shop and its owners bridged three socio-cultural groups: their employees (from southern Italy), themselves (from near Rome), and their powerful and wealthy clients. The shop was located on the second and third floors of the house. The third floor served as the workshop where the “girls,” as they were called, fabricated, decorated, beaded, altered, and tailored the clothing to the desires of the clientele. A. & L. Tirocchi employed women from thriving Italian American families. For these young women, the sewing rooms were “safe areas” where women were sheltered from exploitation and bad behavior and were under the supervision of two female members of their own community.
When Anna Tirocchi died in 1947, Laura Tirocchi Cella wrapped all the shop’s records in tissue paper and carefully put them away. These were not disturbed until 1989 when curators from the RISD Museum were invited by Laura’s son, Dr. Louis J. Cella Jr., inheritor of the house, to make their choice of objects for the Museum. When curators entered the house, it was a time capsule from the 1920s and 1930s, as everything from the shop’s operation lay untouched for over 40 years. Eighteen cubic feet of archival materials were inventoried and acquired by RISD, and two thousand additional objects were given to the University of Rhode Island. Such complete documentation of an historical dressmaking business exists nowhere else in the United States. The Tirocchi collection is an unparalleled resource for understanding many wide-ranging historical issues, including Italian immigration, women as workers and consumers, and the transition from hand production of garments to ready-to-wear clothing.
For a number of years the house was owned by a community development group, yet they did not have the adequate funds to rehabilitate the property and it continued to deteriorate. Fortunately, in 2017 the house was sold to The Dirt Palace, a feminist arts group that has been operating for 17 years in Olneyville. The art group has funds in place and plans to move forward to reuse the building as an artist-in-residence program.
Narragansett Electric Lighting House “Dynamo House” (1912)
360 Eddy Street, Jewelry District
PPS Most Endangered: 2011, 2012
The complex is comprised of several brick and granite-trimmed, Georgian Revival-style structures set on the east side of Eddy Street. A tall, square, brick, three-by-three-bay block (1924) is set close to Eddy Street behind an iron fence with brick piers which borders the property and a parking area to the west. To the east stands a long, rectangular block (turbine house, built 1925; boiler house, built 1917). These blocks both feature granite trim, tall, round-arch window openings with granite keystones and sills, tripartite windows above, granite stringcourses, and brick corbelling.
Windows on the three-by-three-bay block have been filled in. Attached to the west is a rectangular, brick, flat-roof, four-story block (switch house). The building is more modest than the remainder of the complex and features rectangular window openings. A National Register nomination for the property was completed in 2005.
The first electric company in the city was the Rhode Island Electric Lighting Company (1882), which supplied the electric light for ten arc lamps in Market Square. Two years later, Narragansett Electric Lighting Company was formed by Marsden Perry and other Providence businessmen. The company’s first customer was the owner of a skating rink on Aborn Street. That same year the firm received a contract to produce electricity for 75 arc lamps in downtown Providence. The complex was slated for development as the Heritage Harbor Museum, but has been left open to elements without a roof or windows for years as the development is stalled.
In 2013 Brown University, Rhode Island College, and the University of Rhode Island have expressed interest in leasing the property, or at least parts of it. The plans would require that a new roof be placed on the building as there currently isn’t one. Although these plans are still in early phases of discussion it seems to be the most promising future for the property.
Roger Williams Park Seal House (1938)
Roger Williams Park
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2012
The Roger Williams Park Seal House was constructed in 1938 along with a monkey house and an elephant house as part of a Works Progress Administration project. The stone structure echoes rustic WPA designs built throughout the country during the Great Depression.
This unique building has been unused since the Zoo consolidated in the early 1970s. With its stone chimney crumbling, copper flashing falling off, and slate roof failing, the Seal House sits in poor condition. Located directly adjacent to Roosevelt Lake, the stone walls at the base of the building are slowly eroding.
In late 2012 the Park and Zoo both fell victim to acts of vandalism, specifically people who were entering the grounds at night in order to steal valuable copper materials. Some of the items stolen included plaques and manhole covers. The Seal House was saved from vandalism as police caught two men on its roof attempting to remove its copper fixtures. Although the police were there to prevent the theft, it does not mean that the property will be safe from future attempts.
While the City of Providence is currently exploring methods of rehabilitating the building, the roof remains open to the elements. This Seal House is located behind the Casino and Betsy Williams Cottage, both fine examples of the City's record of historic preservation in the Roger Williams Park.
Ward Baking Company Administration Building
145 Globe Street, Jewelry District
PPS Most Endangered Properties List: 2012, 2014
This two-story, brick, flat-roof building originally featured numerous ells constructed between 1908 and 1956. The original complex was bounded by Eddy Street, Globe Street, and Manchester Street (now known as Marengo Street).
All that remains is a two-story section of the complex at the corner of Eddy and Marengo. The entrance is flanked by sidelights and set below several bands of brick corbelling. This two-story block was part of the original building and appears on the 1908 Sanborn map. The blonde brick structure features projecting brick piers between each bay, topped with stone trim. Fenestration is comprised of rectangular openings with a combination of glass block and boarded up windows.
According to a combination of both maps and business directories, the Ward Baking Company building was constructed between 1901 and 1908. Between 1908 and 1918 small additions were built to the rear of the building. By 1926, an addition built on the Eddy Street side of the building, adding an additional 6,432 square feet. Between 1937 and 1956 a large section for storage was added to the rear of the building.
The Ward Baking Company remained at this location through the late 1970s. After being left vacant in the early 1980s, Retailer’s Food Center Wholesale took over the site between 1985 and 1988. Tara Manufacturing Co. and Ideal Rack Co. were also housed there around 1988, sharing the space with Wholesale Foods. By 1993 the building was once again left vacant.
While the building is currently threatened by demolition, PPS is advocating that the owner and managers of the structure explore alternatives and honor a 2011 ruling by the Providence Historic District Commission to preserve the Administration Building.