PPS 2017 Most Endangered Properties List
(in alphabetical order):
- Atlantic Mills, 100 Manton Avenue, Olneyville (1863)
- Barstow Stove Company (known as Tops Electric Company), 120 Point Street, Jewelry District (c. 1849)
- Bomes Theatre, 1017 Broad Street, Elmwood (1921)
- Broad Street Synagogue, 688 Broad Street (1910-1911)
- Cranston Street Armory, 310 Cranston Street, West End (1907)
- Humboldt Fire Station, 155 Humboldt Avenue, Wayland (1906)
- Industrial Trust Building, 111 Westminster Street, Downtown (1928)
- Rhodes Street National Register District, Rhodes/Alphonso/Janes Streets, Upper South Providence, (1850s-1890s)
- Sheffield Smith House, 334 Smith Street, Smith Hill (1855)
- Former Sixth Precinct Police Station, 36 Chaffee Street, Olneyville (1890)
- Welcome Arnold House, 21 Planet Street, College Hill (1785-1798)
Click Here to see a map of this year's MEPs and our 2017 Preservation Award Winners.
Atlantic Mills (1863)
100 Manton Avenue
Years on MEP: 2009, 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016
The Atlantic Mills complex historically includes a collection of buildings on Manton Avenue with its original power source, the Woonasquatucket River, running behind it. One of Providence’s most highly visible and visually distinctive mills, it features almost-twin circular-plan stair towers topped with robust balustrades, high ribbed domes, and tall lanterns (one now missing). Otherwise utilitarian in design, a mill typically achieved architectural distinction through the ornamentation of its most prominent feature, the tower on its façade. Although the mill structure is being utilized, the towers are falling into a state of disrepair.
The mill’s eastern section, designed by Clifton A. Hall, was built in 1863 for the production of worsted cloth to supplement the original 1851 mill (long since destroyed); the nearly identical western section followed in 1882. Stretching west along Manton Avenue are small workers’ houses, originally fifty-seven in all—a remaining example of company-built housing in Providence. By the late 1880s, with 2100 workers, this was the largest textile mill in Providence. It continued to manufacture textiles until 1953.
After difficulties competing with modern textile facilities in post-World War II New England, several small industries and businesses were housed in the space. Today, the former mill complex serves as the location for the Olneyville Neighborhood Association and an indoor flea market. PPS has worked with the owners and managers of Atlantic Mills in the past, and organized a public tour of the site in 2014. We look forward to exploring new opportunities in the coming year.
Barstow Stove Company (a.k.a Tops Electric Company) (c. 1849)
120 Point Street
Neighborhood: Jewelry District
Years on MEP: 2016
The Barstow Stove Company was founded by Amos Chaffee Barstow in 1836 and expanded to the complex on Point Street in 1849. The oldest building on the site (west) dates back to 1849 and has a monitor roof, granite window lintels, and a corbelled brick cornice. Today three buildings remain on the site: a four-and-one-half-story brick building with a jerkinhead gable roof, a three-story brick building with a flat roof, and the original 1849 building. A neon sign reading: “TOPS” is prominently displayed on the building’s west elevation. Fenestration on the original block consists of a combination of 1/1 replacement sash, bricked in openings and 8-light sash on the top floor. Fabric awnings project above window openings on the second story level. Attached to the rear (south) is a large, rectangular, flat-roof, concrete block. The central and eastern blocks of the complex also feature replacement 1/1 sash windows. Pedestrian entrances are located along the Point Street elevation.
By 1859, the company had 200 employees and made 50 different kinds of stoves and furnaces. The company eventually acquired the competing Spicer Stove Company, making Barstow the only stove foundry in Providence, and the largest in New England. The complex included two molding rooms, a flask storage building, a room for stoves, storage areas for up to 5000 stoves, and pattern storage.
Barstow began producing gas stoves in the 1920s to keep up with contemporary technology, but could not compete and went out of business in the 1930s. For around ten years the plant was occupied by the Home Service Company, which did household repairs. Since 1974, Tops Electric Company has operated out of the complex, but it was sold in 2015 to the current owners who are evaluating potential uses and redevelopment scenarios.
Bomes Theater (1921)
1017 Broad Street
Years on MEP: 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016
The Bomes Theatre is a two-story, Beaux Arts-style, flat-roof, brick structure with stone trim. It is embellished with elaborate terra cotta trim and detailed moldings on the façade. Architectural embellishments include modillion blocks, dentils, a projecting cornice, carved shells, and stylized designs. A sign reading ‘Bomes Theater’ is centered at the roof line. Plywood now obscures the original fenestration.
Following its use as a theatre, the Bomes building was occupied by Jason’s furniture. The property is currently owned by the Providence Redevelopment Agency (PRA). It is also part of the city-wide Industrial and Commercial Building District (ICBD), a thematic, scattered-site local historic district. Much opportunity exists for rehabilitation efforts that would greatly enliven the community’s art, theatre, and music culture. This theatre could once again thrive as a premiere arts venue on the south side of Providence.
A community meeting hosted by the City of Providence in late 2013 openly discussed the issues and preservation options for building. PPS hope to renew a discussion of problem-solving by engaging neighborhood stakeholders, determining preservation priorities with the PRA, and exploring realistic options for the building’s rehabilitation.
Broad Street Synagogue (Temple Beth El; Shaare Synagogue) (1910-1911)
688 Broad Street
Years on MEP: 2010, 2014, 2015, 2016
Listed on the National Register in 1988, the Broad Street Synagogue (also known as Temple Beth El and Shaare Zedek Synagogue) was constructed in 1910-11 by the architects Banning and Thornton as the new home of the Congregation Sons of Israel and David. The building is a two-story Classical Revival building of Roman brick and terra cotta, set on a high basement of rusticated brick with concrete underpinnings. A low two-story, flat-roof brick and concrete block addition attached to the north side of the synagogue was built in 1958.
The congregation decided to build a new temple on the East Side during the 1940s as the population around Temple Beth El was no longer the German Jewish community it had once been. In 1954, Temple Beth El was sold to the new Congregation Shaare Zedek, which formed out of five smaller Orthodox groups in the neighborhood. Interior changes were made to reflect the congregation’s Orthodox style of worship. Over the years, the Jewish population around the former Temple Beth El sharply declined. In 2004, the congregation could not get the 10 men required for minyan at Rosh Hashanah. In 2006, the temple was officially closed and “desanctified”. On June 11, 2006, Shaare Zedek merged with Congregation Beth Sholom on Camp Street. As part of the merger, Beth Sholom received ownership of Temple Beth El.
In the past three years, a group of students has initiated a number of fundraising efforts to revitalize the building called the Broad Street Synagogue Revitalization Project. These committed volunteers have partnered recently with the Rhode Island Historical Society to conduct oral histories with congregants who worshipped in the building, and worked with the Providence Revolving Fund to secure funding to stabilize the roof. In the past year, a new owner addressed the building’s most pressing issues, installing a temporary roof and repairing floors and ceilings.
In 2015, the building was sold again; the new owner is planning significant renovations that will hopefully begin soon.
Cranston Street Armory (1907)
310 Cranston Street
Neighborhood: West End
Years on MEP: 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2003, 2015, 2016
The Cranston Street Armory was constructed in 1907 to house the Rhode Island National Guard, 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. 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 largely underutilized since then. While different plans have been proposed regarding what to do with the property, no project moved forward.
The Armory is currently owned and operated by the state of Rhode Island. In 2016, Peregrine Group LLC was commissioned to conduct a redevelopment feasibility study which concluded that upwards of $100 million would be required to fully rehabilitate the building. Currently the state has budgeted $5.5 million through 2018 for capital improvements on the Armory. These repairs are classified as “deferred maintenance,” which include repairing the roof and exterior brickwork. The state is hesitant to allocate further funding for the building until a sustainable reuse is identified.
Humboldt Fire Station (1906)
155 Humboldt Avenue
Years on MEP: None
The Humboldt Fire Station was built in 1906 to the designs of E.T. Banning. The Beaux Arts-style building is the only fire station in the city built in this architectural style. The two story brick station is listed in the Wayland Historic District and features a flat roof with copper embellishment.
It is one of the oldest fire stations in Providence still in operation, second only to the Mount Pleasant Fire Station in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of the city. Based on recent reports in the Providence Journal (October 2016), the Humboldt Fire Station is one of a select few stations across the city under the threat of closings in the near future due to underutilization and budget cuts. In its current state, the station is poorly maintained with deteriorating brickwork and copper detailing.
Industrial Trust Building (1928)
111 Westminster Street
Years on MEP: 2014, 2016
One of the most iconic and recognizable buildings in the region, the Indiana-limestone clad Industrial Trust Company Building rises over 420 feet above the Kennedy Plaza, capped by a 4-story square lantern. The Art Deco skyscraper features streamlined classical motifs above the second story, and set-back pyramidal massing required by an early version of the Providence Zoning Ordinance. Upon the opening of the building in 1928, Providence Magazine commented that the Industrial Trust “has already taken a place in the heart and life of the community.”
The quickly expanding Industrial Trust Company eventually became Fleet Bank, before finally merging with Bank of America in the early 2000s. High Rock Development purchased the building in 2008, and Bank of America remained as the sole tenant until their lease expired in early 2013.
Based on the building’s age and unique configuration, its renovation is not likely feasible without public assistance. The building’s owners, High Rock, last proposed converting the building to apartments in 2013 with $39 million in state aid but this proposal fell through. As of 2016, several Providence business and community leaders have organized to push for state funding to rehabilitate the building which is currently valued at $15.4 million. Furthermore, in 2016 PPS began partnering with the newly formed Save Superman RI group to hold public tours inside the building, which have been widely popular.
The iconic building’s vacancy in the heart of Downtown Providence may be the most critical development challenge currently facing any historic building in Providence. PPS will continue to offer expertise in preservation planning and development to the building owner and his development team, to the City of Providence, and to the State of Rhode Island and its agents in the coming year.
Rhodes Street NR Historic District (1850s - 1890s)
Rhodes, Alphonso, and Janes Streets
Neighborhood: Upper South Providence
Years on MEP: 2001, 2002
The Rhodes Street National Register Historic District is comprised of nineteen early and late Victorian houses on one block of Rhodes Street. These nineteen houses exemplify the middle- and uppermiddle-class domestic architecture of the 1850-1895 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, a Greek Revival house, 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.
The Rhodes Street National Register Historic District was previously listed on the MEP list in 2001 and 2002. At the time of these MEP listings, the area had suffered the loss of more than six of its nominated buildings on the National Register. Currently, this tally has jumped to nine on nineteen buildings that have been demolished since the district’s National Register listing in 1982.The loss of buildings due to arson, neglect, and vandalism is an ever-present threat to the district, which is increasingly isolated. Several of the remaining buildings are covered in vinyl and replacement windows. 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.
Sheffield Smith House (1855)
334 Smith Street
Neighborhood: Smith Hill
Years on MEP: 2015, 2016
One of the oldest houses in this section of Smith Hill, the Sheffield Smith House was constructed by a quarryman in 1855. With a five-bay façade and ornate central-entrance, the 2 ½ story building has an impressive presence on the streetscape. Italianate detailing includes the hooded front door flanked by heavy brackets and a round-arch central window. The façade also features substantial two-story pilasters dividing the bays, with clustered brackets serving as capitals.
The house was foreclosed in 2007 and has sat boarded-up and vacant for years, first through ownership by a Texas-based bank and most recently by local investors. PPS hopes this listing will attract attention and spur appropriate redevelopment for the property.
Former Sixth Precinct Police Station (1890)
36 Chaffee Street
Years on MEP: None
The Chaffee Street Police Station is a Romanesque Revival building that formerly served as the 6th Precinct Police Headquarters. It was built to the designs of Frederick E. Field, who designed several other buildings in Providence, including the Masonic Temple across from the State House. The 2-story, red brick, hip-roof building features eclectic detailing including an elaborate corbel cornice and round-arch fenestration. In 1947 it ceased operation as a police station and was converted into a community center.
Currently the International Federation of Christian Chaplains uses a portion of the building, however it remains largely underutilized and poorly maintained. Brickwork is crumbling toward the base of the roof, several broken windows have been boarded up, and the front entrance awning is completely ripped. The building is included on the city’s non-contiguous Historic Landmarks District.
Welcome Arnold House (1785)
21 Planet Street
Neighborhood: College Hill
Years on MEP: None
The Welcome Arnold House was built in 1785 in the federal style. This 2.5 story house features an open gable roof with modillion detailing. Welcome Arnold was a well-known merchant and ship owner in Providence during the 18th century, who lived in the house until his passing in 1798.
The home is situated on a narrow lot with the main entrance on the side of the house away from the street. Currently it is included in the College Hill National register district as well as the College Hill local historic district.
Exterior work began on the house in 2016, but abruptly halted. In the following months, broken windows and doors were left unrepaired, exposing the interior to the elements. After several neighbors voiced their concern, the bottom floor was secured, though the upper floors remain open.
In 2015, an application was put forth to rezone the property from a R-2 to C-2 residential zone which would allow more dwelling unit density. This petition was vetoed by the City Planning Commission (CPC) with recommendations, but still recommended the application be pushed forward to be approved by the City Council. If this proposal moves forward, the house may potentially be demolished.