AIR Rip :: Loutit / What Cheer Laundry
01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08 09 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 Photo 19591959 close upAd from the 1920’s
Photos 1-4 May 13 2001 by Chris Martin; 5-8 by R. Greenwood, RIHPHC; 25-33 by Lou Fancy; Photo 45 by Stump
Notes on Photo 45: In the foreground is the construction for the new technical High School, in the center is the rubble of Loutit, and behind on Westminster Street we can see the SWAP Project. Taken from an apartment at Pearl Street Lofts.
Loutit / What Cheer Steam Laundry

recent events

December 11, 2008: The building is coming down. I made a visit on the 12th and there was some wrecking ball damage already, but they were still mainly working on dragging crap out of the basement and making sure all the asbestos was removed. I spoke to someone on site overseeing the wrecking, and they didn’t know what was going to be done with the land. The City was planning on saving the ceramic (?) tiles on the front of the building above the main door, the great rendering of Roger Williams meeting the Indians (photo 13). Since then, the tiles have been saved.


The Louttit Laundry Building has been vacant since 1987 and has appeared on the PPS’s 10 most endagered list three times. In 1999, following a number of failed attempts to renovate the former dry cleaning plant, the City foreclosed on the property.

In December 1999, the RIDEM performed a base line survey followed by a Phase II site assessment that found extensive tetrachloroethylene (TCE) and oil contamination at the site. Remediation and redevelopment for the site is expected to cost at least $1.5 million.

On May 13, 2001, the rear half of What Cheer suffered a three alarm fire. The part that caught fire is the oldest part of what was Louttit Laundry. The front part which is still standing, was added to the structure later in its life. The fire-torn half of the building was demolished as it was damaged beyond repair.

On Tuesday, January 22, 2002, U.S. Senator Lincoln Chafee joined the Trust for Public Land as well as federal, state and local officials at the abandoned Louttit Laundry Building to celebrate the enactment of the Brownfields Revitalization and Environmental Restoration Act. It authorizes $250 million per year, over fiscal years 2002-2006, for the assessment and cleanup of brownfield sites. The measure also provides legal protections for innocent parties involved in redeveloping brownfields sites. The West Broadway Neighborhood Association is developing a plan of action to rehab the building.


(Taken from It is a large, two-story, flat-roof, brick, Classical Revival-style building set on the north side of Cranston Street. The building is embellished with a roof balustrade, concrete cornice, stringcourses and quoins. The building features a central entrance on its seven-bay façade. The entrance is set within a two-story, gable-roof projection framed by concrete quoins. The entrance surround is comprised of pilasters supporting a broken arched pediment with a panel bearing the words: “What Cheer Laundry” and depicting Roger Williams meeting Native Americans. A palladian window is located directly above the entrance at the second story level. Fenestration is comprised of rectangular openings with splayed concrete lintels. The majority of window openings are empty and missing sash; several partial windows remain. A one-story, flat-roof ell projects from the east elevation of the building. Signage remains on the building as well as a painted sign on the rear stair tower. The Burgess Street portions of the complex were lost in a fire in 2001.

On June 14, 1896, William Louttit formed a small laundry business, then known as “Louttit’s Home Hand Laundry,” in a simple building at Warren St and Elmgrove Ave in Providence. After expanding and moving several times, Louttit purchased and moved into the former home of the Hathaway Brothers’ “What Cheer Steam Laundry” in 1918. This facility was built around 1906 and had 280,000 sq ft of floor space and 250 windows. In 1925, the plant was expanded and built out to Cranston Street (this is the structure that is left standing).

Louttit Laundry became the largest laundry business in RI with 150 employees and 16 outlets throughout the state. Run by the same family for 90 years, the business was sold in 1985 for 1.2 million. On the verge of bankruptcy, the new owners closed and the property was auctioned in 1987. Later that year it was sold again for $160,000 and it has remained vacant.

Charles Hebert Sep 14 2018 I worked there in 1967-68. Mr. Sampson was my boss. I started in the washroom with three giant machines, wore rubber boot, a tee shirt and shorts and took salt pills because of the heat. worked upstairs in the pressing room. I remember ladies toiling all day in front of those steam presses and about five minutes before the end of the day, changing clothes to go home.

MILDRED M. ANDREOZZI Oct 10 2017 When I was ten years old, my chore was to hang out the wet/washed laundry that was delivered weekly to the house in a large canvas bag tagged with our name/address and Louttit Laundry stamped on it. I would hang the laundry on three clothes lines in the back yard. When it dried, it would be taken in the house and folded. Try giving a ten year old that chore to do today. lol. Reading this was so nostalgic and brought back memories of clean fresh-air dried sheets... heaven!. This was in the middle 40’s. My Mom baked pies and fresh bread daily. I was one of 12 children #10 to be exact. Poor as heck but healthy and happy!

Isabella R. Smith Mar 9 2017 My family believe our great grandfather, Herman Reisman, was an "owner" of Louttit Laundry; my husband stated his great grandfather, Frank Smith, was manager of Louttit Laundry. Does anyone have knowledge of these facts? Isabella Reisman Macdonald Smith

Anthony J Zinanni Aug 14 2014 My Dad, The late Bennie Zinanni was a Driver Salesman for the former What Cheer Laundry. He was employed there for 44 years before retiring in 1973. He was awarded many Safe Driving Pins for each year without any accidents. The Louttit’s T. Robley awarded Dad with many wonderful gifts for his service. Dad had many wonderful customers in Greenville, Chepachet, Wallum Lake and the East Side of Providence. The work was hard and the pay was minimal. Dad would not miss a day of work, even in the 1954 Hurricane he was out on his route until the Company called him in off the road. Dad was a dedicated man to his Family and his Company. He will NEVER be forgotten.

Deborah Jul 15 2014 I worked for this company from 1972 to 1977. Working there helped put me thru college. My mother also worked there. In the basement of their store on Elmwood Ave were vaults. This was were furs were stored for the winter. The vaults ran under the road. My mother worked down in those vaults for many years.

I {heart} Rhody Feb 13 2013 "The City was planning on saving the ceramic (?) tiles on the front of the building above the main door, the great rendering of Roger Williams meeting the Indians (photo 13). Since then, the tiles have been saved." Does anyone know what became of the tiles and rendering?

roger louttit Feb 10 2013 Hi, my name is Roger Louttit. I’m a Cree Indian from the Ontario side of the Jamesbay region of Canada. My family name goes back pretty far. I was told by my grandfather. His grandfather’s was a Scottish settler (he was white). I was wondering if you had a story yourself to relate to mine. I would like to know about my other heritage and other Louttit’s out there. You can find me on Facebook if so. Thank you.

andrew Oct 21 2012 I am the grandson of Thomas R. Louttit Jr. and grew up hearing stories about Louttit Laundry. Its a shame that the building was torn down. I would have loved to see what my family built.

P.S Diane I’m Drews son! haha

Susan Mar 16 2012 I worked here back in the mid 70’s running the steam "closet". I remember we did all the laundry for the Ladd School and some of the clothes were in such tatters it broke my heart to see them get sent back so I made sure they "disappeared". It amazes me that such a thriving business went under so quickly.

Rhonda Dec 22 2009 I, too worked for the second owners back in 1985. I agree with George (who I probably worked with for the short time I was there) these people had no idea of how to run a business of this size; they ran it into the ground. They took a piece of history and destroyed it with their ignorance. So sad! I also wonder what happened to the pictures that were inside. There were photos of the building and all of the employees over it’s 90 plus years in business. I sure hope those pictures have been saved.

shawn gilheeney Jan 30 2009 I studied this building for the past three years and all of my prints and paintings on my website are all based from that buildings decay... when I saw it getting torn down I finally felt relieved, realizing that I wouldn’t have to go back there any more and work from it... but know when I go by and it’s not there... it makes me sad

Stephen Mattos Dec 11 2008 This building is being torn down as I write this (Dec. 11, 2008)!! What ever happened to the plans to save this or do something with this building?? It was sadly rotting away but I thought there were plans for preservation of it. Does anyone know why they finally torn it down and what they are putting in its place???

george  I worked for the second owners of this laundry during the period 1985-87, these people had no business operating a drycleaners of this size, they were idiots, what a shame after 30 years

Pierce Phillips  I, along with a close friend, explored Louttit *very* extensively this past summer (July 2006). We went down into the basement, which was full of wheeled laundry baskets, we walked all around the first floor, we climbed up to the top floor and went around (which was dangerous, as you could see through the charred floor in many places, and there’s a 25 foot drop to the floor below). The creepiest part was this executive office with a fireplace and wood paneling and velvet armchairs. I have over a hundred pictures of the place. It was really cool.

Diane  I dated The youngest son drew for a couple of years back in 1977. We had some exciting adventures running through their big huge home in Barrington Rhode Island. I think back on all those years and laugh.

dozed harpy  once, while ditching class at classical, I wandered into this building with some friends. it was in extreme disrepair, to a frightening extent. one of my friends was going to walk over a small “wall” about a foot high. luckily he threw a rock past it before he jumped over... we heard the rock land several seconds later. i wouldn’t recommend exploring this building.

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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