Union Wadding


www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=15077 (Union Wadding)
www.urbanplanet.org/forums/index.php?showtopic=28779 (the Transfer Station)


Huge Mill Fire at Union Wadding on the evening of Oct. 13, 2010


Firefighters have been working all night to put out a fire at a former mill that’s being converted into apartments at 125 Goff Avenue. Fire Chief William Sisson said that the main body of the fire at the former Union Wadding Mill has been extinguished, but that firefighters are still working on hot spots.

At the scene this morning, firefighters on three ladder trucks are pouring water down into the 450,000-square-foot building as a small amount of smoke continues to drift to the sky.

Parts of the building, which takes up a city block, have collapsed, according to Sisson. The roof has collapsed. Bricks are strewn onto Goff Avenue.

Fire is still burning in the rubble, and the floors are smoldering, Sisson said at the scene.

“We’ll be here another day or two,” he said.

Battalion Chief Timothy Mercer said about 25 people were evacuated and that the Red Cross provided housing for them.

A portion of the building was occupied while other parts of the building are being renovated, according to fire officials.

A passerby reported the fire at about 11:20 p.m. Wednesday, according to Sisson.

The fire appears to have started on the first floor, but the cause is unknown, according to Mercer. Sisson says it appears to have started in an unoccupied portion the building that was not being renovated. There was no utility service to that portion of the building, he said.

Mercer said that about seven towns have been working with Pawtucket with a total of 25 trucks.

Sisson said there have been no injuries to firefighters.

Area streets have been closed.

In April of last year, the First National Development company admitted that they’d illegally allowed tenants to live in unfinished apartments at the mill without occupancy permits, proper sprinklers or fire alarms and agreed to a $40,000 fine.

Fire officials evicted about two dozen tenants from 14 unfinished units on March 25 of 2009 after the Fire Department received a tip that people were living in the building while it was under construction.

From the Pawtucket Times, 8/03/2005 & 8/10/2005 by Douglas Hadden (abridged):
Connecticut-based developer-husband-and-wife team Rebecca and Garfield Spencer is looking to transform the Goff Avenue mill into 200 loft-style condominium units in a project valued at more than $23 million.

In a telephone interview Tuesday, Spencer said “a couple of buildings in the back” of the complex – the woodframe two-story former bleachery – not suitable for rehab will likely be demolished, “because we’ve got more building than land.” Those teardowns will help provide more parking, although “from what we’ve seen,” he said, “we shouldn’t have a problem” supplying the required number of spaces.

He said the project will be "100 percent identical" to the bricks-and-beams mill makeover that First National Development LLC, the company he runs with his wife, Rebecca, performed in Bridgeport, Conn. Richard Mittleman, attorney for First National, said a new Rhode Island-based entity will be formed as developer for the project.

In Bridgeport, Conn., where the Spencers’ company redeveloped the former Warnaco corset factory into 140 loft-style condominiums, the city agreed to a tax abatement plan under which condo owners in the first eight years pay $1 in property taxes for each square foot of space, according to an article last October in houstonarchitecture.info. That put their tax bills in the range of $600 to $1,500 a year.

Reported condo prices for that project in a long-blighted area near the University of Bridgeport, called Lofts on Lafayette, ran from $125,000 for 700 square feet of brick-and-beam loft space to $200,000 for a 1,600-square-foot, two-level townhouse.

Bridgeport Mayor John Fabrizi, in an article last November in the Bridgeport News, called the Spencers’ project, which is gated with offstreet parking, “absolutely phenomenal. A building that’s been vacant for 25 years has been modernized and put back on our tax rolls.”

He put the cost of the project at "northward of $23 million or $24 million." He said he will be "seriously" looking into possible use of state historic tax credits to trim costs.

From the Pawtucket Times, 1/18/2006 by Douglas Hadden (abridged):
First National Development LLC. want the zoning changed from industrial to downtown commercial to allow the proposed wider range of uses. Before the City Council can act on the request, the Planning Commission needed to indicate that it complied with the city’s blueprint for development, known as the comprehensive community plan, and approve amending the plan to reflect the change.

Commission member John Calista Jr. recalled that in 1968 when city zoning classified the property as industrial, the concern was to help maintain the jobs at Union Wadding. But with the 200-year-old manufacturer’s exit, and the complex’s location at the edge of downtown, “I whole heartedly support this,” he said.

Aurora Leigh, project manager for First National, said the property is no longer surrounded by other industrial buildings and the return of such industry to the site was unlikely, and noted the city’s stated goals of affordable owner-occupied housing and reuse of old mill buildings.

Leigh said the loft-style units, to feature exposed brick, existing hardwood floors, 14-foot ceilings, oversized windows, stainless steel appliances and industrial lighting, would be about 1,200 square feet each and sell for $150,000 to $200,000. Bedrooms would get separating walls to 10 feet high with the rest of the unit on an open floor plan.

City Planner Michael Cassidy said an older complex like Union Wadding “is clearly not going to be competitive in this market today for industrial use.” On a suggestion by Cassidy, the panel also included in its motion support for a similar zone change for three nearby properties also being redeveloped for live-work condos: The Goff Avenue building housing the Theresa Landry School of Dance, a gas station with a mini-mart and a former bank building.

Gaining all the permissions will make any financing easier and assure “there’s no question that could cloud the title. It’s the same thing (Riverfront Lofts developer) Ranne Warner did, the same thing that Parkin Yarn did,” Cassidy said referring to two other recent downtown mill conversions.

From the Pawtucket Times, 11/08/2006 by Douglas Hadden (abridged):
The owner of the former Union Wadding complex made a surprise appearance before the City Council Wednesday night to say that the property was no longer being offered up for sale because he had received assurances the city will actively fight the possible location of a massive trash transfer station next door.

First National Development said they had only advertised the property out of concern it was only a few local business owners who would be overmatched in a legal battle with the large New Jersey corporation, doing business here as Pawtucket Transfer Operations, looking to site the facility. “We started getting nervous and marketing the property,” Spencer acknowledged, figuring that “if the city is not behind us a hundred percent,” he said, “then I’m going to market the property.”

The property was advertised on Craigslist.org, a general use Web site that does not specialize in commercial real estate, for about two or three weeks then withdrawn, Spencer told the council. He said the ad was taken down after receiving documents from Richard Davis, director of the private, business-backed Pawtucket Foundation, which also opposes the PTO operation, showing the city was taking an active legal role fighting the proposed plant.

The city’s ruling to deny PTO zoning uses it sought was overturned in Superior Court and PTO is now back before the city for zoning approvals. Meanwhile the city has petitioned the state Supreme Court to hear its appeal of the Superior Court ruling.

Spencer said he had not been told about the possible transfer station next door. But Cassidy, who did not attend the meeting and said he did not know Spencer would be there, in a phone interview later said Spencer and others at FND were informed from the start of that possibility, including at the first get-acquainted meeting in the spring of 2005.

“I told them the day they showed up in our office and they told us they were interested in the property. We told every single developer who came in and talked. So absolutely we talked to them before they put the bid in. It upset me they portrayed to the council they did not know the transfer station was projected to a site (next door). We told Tony Sulfaro (a developer who also submitted a bid to the receiver), he was very interested in that property,” as well as others.

“I told them what I tell everybody else” potentially developing in that area, Cassidy said, that the potential project was out there and “that we will try to do whatever we can to prevent this. I told them this was the first inning of a long ballgame.”

Spencer told the council, which ultimately approved second passage to allow the commercial downtown zone change which also will affect several nearby properties, he would follow through on the project for which extensive plans had already been drawn up.

“I’ve never ever flipped a piece of property in my time in America,” said Spencer, a former British subject, “If I’m in, I’m in.” Spencer, accompanied by project manager Aurora Leigh, told councilors even if the transfer station goes forward, he will “still proceed,” though then he would seek tax incentives from the city to compensate for loss of density and “to get people to move in.”


One of RI”s oldest manufacturers, whose genesis dates to 1771 and Pawtucket roots to 1836.

From the Pawt. Mill Building Survey, Preservation Society of Pawt. 1995:
A 330,000 sf lot with a 360,000 sf building owned by the Union Wadding Company. The foundations of the mill date from 1847, with reconstruction occurring in 1870 after a series of fires. Unbuilt portions of site are given over to parking and loading. Railroad borders to the north.

A large complex of interconnected brick buildings consisting of distinct warehouse, mill, and administrative elements. Warehouse at southwest corner is imposing 3-story mass with small arched windows, renovated for offices. At the southeast end is a small 2-story administrative building with a formal, granite 3-arch carriage way. The great majority of structures are 2 and 3-story typical mills. Most windows have been replaced with glass block, aluminum windows, or filled in.

From various newspaper clippings, Providence Journal and Pawtucket Times:
Union Wadding, a maker of tinsel, holiday decorations and other items, entered state receivership proceedings in October of 2004. In November, Union Wadding Co. was declared insolvent and operating under court supervision while an attempt is made to find a buyer. Years of losing money, overseas competition and financing arrangements that were coming due were blamed when UW entered receivership last fall. When efforts by the receiver to sell the company as a going concern failed, the receiver began selling company assets piece by piece, while also chasing accounts receivable and other remaining revenue sources.The closedown cost 160 workers – some employed 30 years or more – their jobs.

Carol Thomas Aug 26 2018 I worked there in 1971-1972. It was an after school job. I walked there from Tolman HS on Exchange St. First, I'd spend about an hour or so in the Pawtucket Public Library, since my shift didn't start until 4 PM. It was my first job. We made yo-yos and other toys there as well as Christmas decorations. Back in the good old days before foreign competition killed off industries like this in the US. Pawtucket was quite an industrial town back in the day. Textile mills, jewelry factories, etc., all clustered in this downtown area. Now all are gone.

Michael Wood Feb 14 2014 I worked for a company named Camvac and ITW. We were a supplier to U.W. and I was the sales rep with account responsibility. I used to call on Mr. Herb Carlson the purchasing manager. He was a very nice man always honest and above board this was from 1986-2000. I remember taking Herb out to lunch and seeing the TV at this quaint little bar and Grill and that was the day the Challenger exploded.

Michael Viveiros Apr 11 2010 Does any one know if there is anything possibly bad about this building on the opposite side of the condos? such as asphestus or other enviormentaly dangerous things? if so please e-mail me at viveiros_michael [at] yahoo [dot] com

John G. Aug 1 2009 I remember this building since I was young. For 24yrs, My father worked here and it was a nice place. I remember coming here on days and meeting my father and he’d take me inside and I’d meet his boss and co-workers who I got to know over the years. Union Wadding wasn’t far from my house. I remember walking inside with my father and hearing the machines run. At first the loud bangs did frighten me a little, but I got used to it. Because, how friendly everyone was, I felt like I was indeed a member of Union Wadding. My father was very upset when this place closed. Of course, he lost his job. I recently went here to take pictures of the dying building before changes are made.

Scott Apr 29 2009 Hello, I was a tenant of First National Development for a short time. I honestly believe that a forum such as this while providing historical data for a structure such as this, should also be able to provide a warning for potential tenants of this company. If you research recent activity on the property you would find that First National Development allowed almost 30 people and their pets to move into this building without any certificates of occupancy. They lied to many people to get them into the building as a way of staving off foreclosure, and subsequently put our lives in jeopardy. Fortunately no harm came to any of us that were living there, but practices such as this need to be public record, and they should honestly be run out of town. Should you be interested in any further information please don’t hesitate to contact me at the above listed email address.

Thank you, Scott Graham, Former tenant, Union Wadding Lofts, Current tenant, Slater Cotton Mill Lofts

Jacob Mar 9 2009 Mr. Sauter, "Mary" and others, I would like to hear your stories about working at this plant, or having family/childhood connections to it. I am a multimedia artist and student at Brown working on a project about the history of abandoned structures in the area, and would perhaps like to do interviews. Thanks! richman {dot} jacob {at} gmail {dot} com

Harry Feb 10 2009 My mother worked there for many years on the production line before retiring in the 80s. She enjoyed the time with her co-workers there, although some of the supervisors were slave drivers! We never ran out of Christmas items such as tinsel and bulbs around my house. They had a loud horn that would go off every day at 3PM. You could hear it for miles away. I knew that my mother would be on her way home shortly afterwards. (walking)

Stephen Sauter April 24 2008 I worked there for 3 years in the early 1970s and installed a process and quality control system throughout the plant at that time. I would be happy to talk with someone to give my recollections of the plant at that time.

Tripp Evans 01-28-2008 My great-grandfather (Roy Tripp Evans) worked here from the 1910s through the 1940s and lived on East Avenue in Pawtucket; my father remembers visiting here in the early 1940s and when Union Wadding still had a few mule-driven carts.

Mary I did work there in the office in the early 60’s. I am interested in the history and development of that site.

Michael A. Russo I have no information to share about the building, but just this weekend I purchased two very large (nearly 3 ft.long) panoramic Blk and Wht photographs of the Union Wadding Company Clambake Outing from an consignment shop here in Branford, CT. It show all the employees in front of the large porch at the Francis Farm. One photo is dated Oct. 7, 1950 and the other is Oct.6, 1951. I was attracted to the large group of cheerful folks and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to purchase them and give them a new home. I visited your website to find out the history of the company and was interested and delighted to learn this company also produced Christmas decorations, as I am a collector of antique and vintage Christmas related items. Good luck collecting information about this building and company. I have never seen the Union Wadding Company’s building, but I do have a clear image of the people that worked within its brick walls. Regards.

The information about each building grows as visitors let us know about their experiences. Did you or a member of your family work here? Did you grow up near it as a child? Let us know. All entries will be moderated and may be posted in an edited form. We will use your name unless you tell us otherwise. We will not make your email public.

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